E.J. Dionne in a Snit

November 16, 2004

Washington Post Columnist E.J. Dionne continues to have post-election hormonal fits, registering his perpetual incredulity that Republicans have the audacity to act like Republicans, even after they ran as Republicans. Better yet, substitute “conservative” for “Republicans” in all the above instances except for the first. E.J. is outraged that Republican conservatives intend to govern from the right, even though the electorate pretty much gave them the go ahead on November 2nd. In his latest column he expresses his displeasure with Republicans being so exclusive with pro-choicers. Republicans have always claimed to be more inclusive than Democrats on the abortion question, but look what they’re trying to do to poor Senator Specter, he says. E.J. is completely missing the point.

This isn’t about being mean to or punishing Senator Specter. This isn’t about Senator Specter at all. The grassroots effort to prevent Specter to ascending to the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee is not a muscle-flexing exercise by conservatives. It’s not intended to be a symbolic statement against Senator Specter, or GOP “moderates” in general. It’s aimed, ultimately, about restoring integrity to the United States Constitution. It’s about making sure that President Bush’s judicial nominees get a fair hearing before the entire Senate and that Senator Specter, as chair of the Judiciary Committee, doesn’t use his power to thwart the president’s constitutional appointment power, like Specter’s like minded Democrats on the committee have been doing for the last four years.

Conservatives don’t care that much about what Specter believes personally. They just don’t want him using his power to Bork more originalist judges,whom he has called extremists.

And, just to be clear, I’m not exaggerating about Dionne’s position. Here’s is part of what he wrote:

Moderate Republicans win in the blue states by saying they are different from Tom DeLay and other Republican right-wingers. But in Washington, they are punished if they act on what they tell the voters.

Consider the case of Sen. Arlen Specter, just reelected from Pennsylvania, a state that supported John Kerry. Specter is a Republican who supports abortion rights. Now the Republican right wants to deny him the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee, for which he is in line through seniority.

Specter’s sin? He took the same position on the abortion question after the election as he did before. Here’s the post-election statement that has the conservatives wanting to deny Specter his chairmanship:

“When you talk about judges who would change the right of a woman to choose, overturn Roe v. Wade, I think that is unlikely,” Specter said. “The president is well aware of what happened when a bunch of his nominees were sent up with the filibuster.”

Specter was stating the obvious: that many Democrats are likely to try to block an anti-Roe nominee. But conservatives viewed Specter’s comment as heresy, and Specter can’t count on much support from Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

Again, E.J., it’s not about punishing Specter for his “sin.” And we know he hasn’t changed his position on abortion. It’s that he wants to change his “position” on the judiciary committee: he wants to become chairman. And that makes a big difference, E.J.

These liberals continue to castigate Republicans as extremists and unreasonable merely for fighting for what they believe in and what they campaigned on. The only way to mollify the unreasonable chattering class of which E.J. is a leading member, is to roll over and be a liberal on the issues that matter most. Their fuzzy thinking is a sight to behold