Friday, August 24, 2007

Digging The Dirt: Committee Hearings, Politics By Other Means

It’s a mouthful from “Red Five,” a commentator on Connecticut Local Politics, but well worth heeding:

“So far the committee hearings themselves have appeared bipartisan.

“But someone is feeding a steady stream of “dirt” on Downey to the panel, and the media, and it makes you wonder who that might be … and why they’re doing it.

“Anyone who actually reads the Downey transcript on (Strom) Thurmond can see he (1) condemned Thurmond’s bigoted past and (2) spoke as someone with a personal relationship to the senator, not as a fan of his politics.

“Lawlor and McDonald - and please note here that Chris Healy was as wrong about this as he could have been - said as much themselves.

“Yet the damage was done.

“Then there’s the “questions” about his comments concerning immigration status. Even the lawyer for the party in question calls the comments innocuous - an intellectual exercise.

“Yet more damage was done.

“Come today and the committee is forced to delay action due to “surprise” new issues …

“Which brings us to snide posts on CLP about “Nominiations” and even more invective on MLN.

“Are we to believe that this “surprise” evidence - which deals with a case from 2002 - was not available before 4 p.m.? Or, to suggest another TV metaphor, is this a little too Perry Mason-esque?

“It’s classic political theater. And utterly despicable.”

There was an unmistakable political message attached to the hearing presided over by conservative judicial dragon slayers ,Rep. Michael Lawlor and Sen. Andrew McDonald, co-chairs of the Judiciary Committee, who persuaded Judge Downey to withdraw as a gubernatorial choice for the appellate court.

And the message is: Progressives on the Judiciary Committee never sleep. The gateway to judicial appointments to the bench is guarded by Lawlor and McDonald who have, between them, more eyes than may be found in a peacocks’ fan.

The little wag of the tail that gave Downey away was a remark he made, way back in 2002, to a defense attorney concerning a client who, Downey supposed, may not have been a legal immigrant. Pressed by a stern looking Lawlor and McDonald, Downey allowed that he was only engaging in intellectual fisticuffs with the attorney when he said non citizens in the country illegally might not have a right to access to the courts. But then someone – certainly not a friend of the judge -- brought to the attention of Downey’s inquisitors that, way back in the Mesozoic Period, the judge had sported the same belligerent attitude towards illegal aliens who might use the judicial system to gain an advantage over real citizens.

Well now, the two co-chairs of the judiciary committee are used to spiking conservatives. Earlier in the year, they easily got rid of Judge Peter Zarella -- perhaps the most brilliant jurist on Connecticut’s Supreme Court, a Republican, certainly not a progressive – whom Governor Jodi Rell nominated to be Chief Justice. Downey was an after-dinner drink for Lawlor and McDonald. When the two progressive co-chairs handed Downey his hat, the judge first apologized profusely for exercising his First Amendment rights from the bench, and then he did a little groveling before the two worthies, no doubt hoping his sins would be forgiven him by the time his re-appointment came up.

The ever obliging and truckling Hartford Courant closed the lid on Downey’s coffin. Said the magisterial Courant in one of its pro forma editorials, Downey “tellingly” said that his views on the issue under question had evolved over the years; thus Downey had “tacitly” acknowledged that his “political philosophy” had got in the way of his judgment – unlike his interrogators, grand inquisitors Lawlor and McDonald, who apparently have no political philosophy worth mentioning.

Whoever is digging the dirt on non-progressive judicial nominees certainly went back a long way to gather a few shovels full to bury Gov. Jodi Rell’s judicial appointments, and in Zarella’s case there was no dirt at all. But the innocence of the victims has never stood in the way of determined ideologues.

“Despicable!” said Red Five.

Hear, hear…
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