Today's New York Times reports that the Senate Democrats are having difficulty agreeing on a strategy for the forthcoming confirmation hearings for Judge John G. Roberts:
Two weeks before senators begin questioning the Supreme Court nominee, John G. Roberts Jr., the debate over his confirmation is becoming a test of Senate Democrats as well.
The party's liberal base, whose contributions during judicial confirmation fights earlier this year have helped the Senate Democratic campaign fund amass twice as much as its Republican rival, is pressing for another vigorous fight against Judge Roberts as documents from the Reagan administration clarify his conservative credentials.
But as Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and other liberal stalwarts on the Judiciary Committee step up their criticism of Judge Roberts's record, other Democrats are reluctant to join them.
"I am turned off by senators trying to act like they have already found the guy out and they know what he is like," said Senator Russell D. Feingold, a Democratic committee member from Wisconsin who spent last week focused instead on calling for a pullout from Iraq. "I am not part of any Democratic effort to 'set the table' " for the hearings by laying the groundwork to criticize Judge Roberts, he said.
Several Democratic senators said the hearings on Judge Roberts were shaping up as a risky balancing act. Failing to press him could look weak to their liberal base. But attacking too hard could draw Democrats into a losing battle on the treacherous turf of abortion, race and religion at a time when Republicans appear vulnerable on other fronts.
What's particularly interesting and rather unexpected here is to see the Times state that the Republicans have the advantage in public discussions about abortion, race, and religion. I wonder if Maureen Dowd and Frank Rich read the front pages of their paper?