Specter’s Loyalty Test
Dahlia Lithwick is apoplectic about the rangling over Arlen Specter’s rise to the Judiciary Committee Chairmanship:
It’s easy to forget how radical a document the U.S. Constitution really is. It demands no oath of fealty to the president or even to God. Officeholders swear instead to uphold the strange, ambiguous, open-to-interpretation document that is the Constitution itself. This is a radical notion because it allows for individual judgments about what that Constitution meansÃ¢€”and recognizes that sorting that meaning out can sometimes be a messy business.
It’s worth recalling all this, as we are reminded yet again that neither individual judgment nor messiness seems to be tolerated by the current administration. Sen. Arlen Specter saved his seat as the next chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee by signing a pledgeÃ¢€”a pledge that had to be drafted, then redrafted to the specifications of the GOP leadership.
The Framers rather clearly did not envision the evolution of the committee system, organized as it is along party lines. Given that this is in fact the system, however, it’s perfectly reasonable that the Republican majority would want some assurances before putting a dissenting member of its caucus into, arguably, the most important post in the Senate’s leadership. President Bush may well appoint three or four members to the Supreme Court, and probably hundreds to the lower courts, over the next four years. Having one man thwart the will of the American people, as expressed in several consecutive elections now, would have been much more cause for alarm.