Saturday, October 08, 2005

Hamilton to Bush: For shame!

I see that Todd Morman has turned, as Justice O'Connor does, to Alexander Hamilton for some back-to-basics guidance. From The Federalist #76:

To what purpose then require the co-operation of the Senate? I answer, that the necessity of their concurrence would have a powerful, though, in general, a silent operation. It would be an excellent check upon a spirit of favoritism in the President, and would tend greatly to prevent the appointment of unfit characters from State prejudice, from family connection, from personal attachment, or from a view to popularity. In addition to this, it would be an efficacious source of stability in the administration.

It will readily be comprehended, that a man who had himself the sole disposition of offices, would be governed much more by his private inclinations and interests, than when he was bound to submit the propriety of his choice to the discussion and determination of a different and independent body, and that body an entier branch of the legislature. The possibility of rejection would be a strong motive to care in proposing. The danger to his own reputation, and, in the case of an elective magistrate, to his political existence, from betraying a spirit of favoritism, or an unbecoming pursuit of popularity, to the observation of a body whose opinion would have great weight in forming that of the public, could not fail to operate as a barrier to the one and to the other. He would be both ashamed and afraid to bring forward, for the most distinguished or lucrative stations, candidates who had no other merit than that of coming from the same State to which he particularly belonged, or of being in some way or other personally allied to him, or of possessing the necessary insignificance and pliancy to render them the obsequious instruments of his pleasure.

So in Hamilton's mind, the Senate confirmation process exists precisely to stop a Harriet Miers. Bush should be "ashamed and afraid"! But let's think about it. Shame doesn't seem to register with the Bush crowd. Fear might, but only if there were real reason to fear. Hamilton goes on to say that he's counting on the presence of "independent and public-spirited" senators to stand against such a brazen power play. Was he too hopeful?

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