Thursday, February 17, 2005

Redefining the Judicial Mainstream

President Bush has renominated twenty judges whose confirmations the Democrats had blocked in his first term. Some Dems are all aflutter that the President would have the temerity to bring them back for reconsideration now that he has a stronger position in the senate, but he has, and he appears to have every intention of seeing them confirmed. Here are a couple of snips from the LA Times' story:

"The President is at it again with extremist judges," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). "Last year, the Senate worked to confirm 204 of the president's judicial nominees and rejected only the 10 most extreme."

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, said the judges who were filibustered last year and have been renominated "are out of the mainstream and will not be confirmed by the Senate, unless they have drastically modified their views and ideologies."

Because the Republicans now have 55 of the Senate's 100 members, their hand is stronger in attempts to break a filibuster. It takes 60 votes in the Senate to cut off debate. Senate Majority leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has indicated that if Democrats again attempt filibusters, he might seek a ruling from the Senate that 51 votes, not 60, would be needed to stop a filibuster on a judicial nomination.

What the story doesn't tell us is exactly what it is about these judges that offends Senators Reid and Schumer. Why do they say the nominees are "extremists"? Is it because they believe judges should interpret the law, not make it? Is it because they are practicing Christians? Is it because they are pro-life? Is it that they are conservative? Any of these, of course, would place a candidate far out on the edge of the political solar system as far as Senator Schumer is concerned, but the article doesn't help us understand what their extremism consists in.

We suppose we'll have to wait till the hearings to find out and to see if the nominees have had the good sense in the meantime to have "drastically modified" their Christian beliefs and other distasteful radicalisms enough to veer them back into the "mainstream". It's important that these prospective judges conform to the high standards of such as Senator Schumer and make themselves acceptable to Lefty Democrats who, of course, have been hunkered down in the mainstream for forty years.

Nature v. Nurture

John Derbyshire at National Review Online lists thirteen candidates vying for consideration as the cause of homosexuality, discusses which he thinks to be the most likely, and explains what the implications of all this might be for our views of homosexuals and homosexuality. Several excerpts from Derbyshire's piece follow:

My own inclination, therefore, is to believe that most homosexuality is inborn, or acquired early in life, possibly by infection, or by biochemical imbalances in the womb, perhaps helped along by some genetic predisposition. As I have said, the human personality is a thing of fantastic complexity and mystery, and I am sure there are cases of socialization, "imprinting," and conversion (in both directions), too. These are, however, fringe phenomena, occurring in small numbers. Most homosexuality is, I believe, inborn, or acquired very early in life.

The issue is confused by the fact that homosexualists, who obviously have the biggest axe to grind here, are the most vocal proponents of the can't-help-it school of thought. "We are born this way," they say. "Therefore it is mean of you to discriminate against us!"

As to what the consequences for our attitudes and public policies should be, supposing I am right about the causes of homosexuality, I offer the following.

I don't think that the fact of a predilection's being inborn should necessarily lead us to a morally neutral view of the acts it prompts. If you could prove to me that pyromania is inborn, I should not feel any better disposed towards arson. On the other hand, I should have a somewhat more sympathetic attitude towards arsonists than I had before. In that spirit, I favor a tolerant attitude towards homosexuals. I certainly do not believe, as around 40 percent of Americans say they do, that homosexual acts ought to be illegal.

Further, homosexuality is offensive to many believers in all three of the major Western religions, who form a large majority of the American population. I think that while minority rights ought to be respected, civic majorities ought not be asked to endure offense for the sake of abstract metaphysical or juridical theories, unless dire and dramatic injustices like slavery are in play. Majorities have rights too; and while I want to see minority rights respected, I don't think that every minor inconvenience consequent on being a member of a minority should be raised to the level of an intolerable injustice requiring drastic legislative or judicial remedy.

Tolerance is not approval; and while I do not agree with the pope that homosexuals are "called to chastity," I do think that they are called to restraint, discretion, reticence, and a decent respect for the opinions of the majority. I certainly do not think that they ought to be allowed to transform long-established institutions like marriage on grounds of "fairness." Nor do I think they should be allowed to advertise their preference to high-school students, as they do in some parts of this country. Nor should they be strutting about boasting of "pride." (How can you feel pride in something you believe you can't help?)

Its worth reading the whole article at NRO.