Right Urges Showdown With Democrats Over Judicial Nominees

White House press secretary Tony Snow has taken to using Pentagon-esque visuals in briefings to make the case that the situation in Iraq is improving.
White House press secretary Tony Snow has taken to using Pentagon-esque visuals in briefings to make the case that the situation in Iraq is improving. "What we're doing is mounting a campaign for people actually to find out what's going on, on the ground," he said. Snow added that most people see only footage of insurgent bombs. (By Ron Edmonds -- Associated Press)

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By Michael A. Fletcher
Monday, July 23, 2007

Even as President Bush last week named four candidates to fill long-standing vacancies on federal appeals courts, conservative legal activists were spoiling for a fight over what they call the unfair treatment of the president's judicial nominees.

So far, the new names have not raised the hackles of the liberal advocacy groups closely monitoring Bush's nominees. But there is substantial opposition to several other nominees, including Leslie H. Southwick, formerly a judge on the Mississippi Court of Appeals, and Harris County, Tex., trial Judge Jennifer W. Elrod, both candidates for seats on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

"Leslie Southwick's confirmation would be a slap in the face to African Americans and people of goodwill. His views on workplace discrimination are, at best, questionable and at worst, indifferent to the dignity of minority workers," said Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Council on Civil Rights.

Meanwhile, Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, labeled Elrod, 41, "not ready to be confirmed" after her hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.

Before Bush named his latest batch of nominees -- Shalom D. Stone for a seat on the 3rd Circuit, Robert J. Conrad Jr. to the 4th Circuit, Catharina Haynes to the 5th Circuit and John Daniel Tinder to the 7th Circuit -- he had selected candidates for only five of the 15 circuit court vacancies. Some conservative legal activists were worried that the president was squandering an opportunity to build on a record that includes appointing two Supreme Court justices and about 30 percent of the nation's active appeals court judges.

But now conservative activists are incensed at the opposition and are urging Senate Republicans to retaliate -- perhaps by blocking Democratic legislation and effectively grinding business to a halt in the Senate -- if there is no action on the stalled appeals court candidates.

"There's a battle heating up," said Curt Levey, director of the Committee for Justice, a group that supports conservative judicial nominees. "Something's going to happen before the August recess."

The brewing confrontation could reignite the bitter partisan battles that preceded the president's two Supreme Court appointments in 2005.

Republicans "seem to love to shut down the government and seem intent on manufacturing excuses to do so," said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

Leahy defended his committee's record for confirming judges. "Already this year, we have proceeded to confirm more judges than were confirmed in all of 2005, when Republicans ran the Senate."

The Snow Show

White House press secretary Tony Snow seems to be taking matters into his own hands as senators from both parties warn that they are losing patience while waiting for signs of progress in Iraq. There is substantial success on the ground, Snow argues, and lately he has made that case at news briefings with charts and other visuals -- and the kind of military detail normally heard at the Pentagon.

"In the months of May and June, there were kills or captures of a number of senior al-Qaeda in Iraq leaders," Snow told reporters on Wednesday. "That would include 11 local al-Qaeda in Iraq leaders, seven facilitators, five cell leaders and three vehicle-borne IED network leaders."


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