Sen. Chuck Grassley, the senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee, tried today to demonstrate why Ronnie White should not be confirmed as a federal judge in Missouri. But in so doing, Grassley succeeded only in demonstrating his own partisan hypocrisy.
On the Senate floor, Grassley said:
Discussing his judicial philosophy, [Ronnie White] said in 2005 that he thinks it's appropriate for judges to let their opinions be “shaped by their own life experiences.”
I think the personal characteristics of the judge – what this nominee calls his “own life experiences” – should play no role whatsoever in the process of judicial decision making.
"No role whatsoever," Grassley says. Yet when a far-right Bush judicial nominee made a similar statement, Grassley had no problem with it. At his confirmation hearing, Samuel Alito, then a circuit judge, told senators how his judicial opinions were shaped by his family's life experiences. For instance:
When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account.
Neither White nor Alito was saying they would base their judicial opinions on their own personal political ideologies (although it turns out that is exactly what Alito has done). But Grassley is a conservative with a mission to populate the federal bench with more people like Sam Alito and fewer people like the ones President Obama nominates.
Grassley's power to shape the bench will be greatly augmented should Republicans take over the Senate this fall, as he would then become chairman of the Judiciary Committee.