Media Ignores McCain's Faith Forum Fumble

Monday, August 18, 2008 at 04:03 PM

After watching the presidential forum at Rick Warren's Saddleback church on Saturday, I was amazed at how complimentary the media has been of John McCain's performance. The media was so kind to McCain after the forum that they missed (or ignored) the biggest jaw-dropper of the night -- his answer to the question of which Supreme Court justices he would not have nominated.

I gave up on McCain's portion of the event after 30 minutes, tired of watching McCain fumble through his stump speech talking points instead of answering the questions.

Here's his answer to the Supreme Court question:

Warren: ... which existing Supreme Court justices would you not have nominated?

McCain: With all due respect, Justice Ginsburg, Justice Breyer, Justice Souter and Justice Stevens.

Warren: Why? Tell me why?

McCain: Well, I think that the president of the United States has incredible responsibility in nominating people to the United States Supreme Court. They are lifetime positions as well as the federal bench. There will be two maybe three vacancies. This nomination should be based on the criteria of proven record of strictly adhering to the Constitution of the United States and not legislating from the bench. Some of the worst damage has been done by legislating from the bench.

John McCain as Dr. Bruce Banner by Diculous DesignsWarren did a better job asking questions than professional journalists have done in most of this year's debates, but that answer was crying out for a Tim Russert-style follow-up.

As Taegan Goddard points out today on Political Wire, McCain voted to confirm Breyer, Ginsburg and Souter. (Stevens was nominated before McCain was elected to the Senate back in 1946.)

McCain's answer may be the most glaring flip-flop of the general election campaign. He voted yes on most of the Supreme Court's liberal wing, yet he just said -- in a purpose-driven house of God, no less -- he wouldn't have nominated them.


I'd love to see a voice-stress analysis of Pastor Warren's interview with McCain. Apparently, both of them knew there was some problem with the "cone of silence" when McCain walked on stage. So that could provide a calibration point with which to judge the truthiness of other parts.

Further ideas on testing whether McCain cheated are given in my blog at

Stating the obvious here, but the media has ignored this supposed issue because voting to confirm and nominating are too very different actions.

In deference to the important constitutional concept of separation of powers, US Senators are expected to rise above partisan politics and personal opinion in their confirmation votes. Absent serious and obvious problems with a nominee's qualifications, philosophy and judicial temperament, it is a Senator's constitutional duty to support the sitting president's right to appoint the justice of his or her choosing. Having a concern that the nominee might legislate from the bench on issues over which they may disagree is not enough.

By his votes (including his Bork vote) Senator McCain has proven that he recognizes the constitutional importance to the future of the Union in keeping the confirmation process a legal process, rather than a political one.

"the media has ignored this supposed issue because voting to confirm and nominating are too very different actions"

The fact that he voted to confirn the Justices that he would not have nominated is only part of the story. Combined with the Juatices he singled out for praise--Roberts and Alito--that's one reactionary, scary old dude.

Replace the four he would not have nominated with four more like Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and I literally would not want to live in this country.

Why not just pick Ron Paul to be his running mate and get the whole thing out into the open--what they/he really intend to do is deliver us back unto the 19th century when life was so good--for about 9% of the population.

Visitor: Senators like McCain are the reason Breyer, Ginsburg and Souter are sitting on the court. The idea that he should get a pass here -- because the senator is only to consider whether they are "qualified," not whether they belong on the court -- is silly. If he feels so strongly now that they have harmed the court so much they should never have been nominated, he owes the public an explanation of why he voted to put them there.

Quote: "If he feels so strongly now that they have harmed the court so much they should never have been nominated..."

Senator McCain never said anything of the sort, you made that up. :-)

Quote: "The idea that he should get a pass here -- because the senator is only to consider whether they are "qualified," not whether they belong on the court -- is silly."

It only seems silly because you are choosing to ignore (or are ignorant of) two relevant and very important constitutional considerations: separation of power and advice and consent.

The framers of our constitution gave the plenary power of nomination to the President so that the initiative of choice would be a single individual's responsibility, but they wisely provided the Senate check of advice and consent to forestall the possibility of abuse of that power.

The advice and consent clause does not give the Senate a role in determining whether a nominee simply "belongs on the court," to do so would damage the separation of power between the judicial, legislative and executive branches. Supreme Court judges are not appointed to decide cases according to the latest opinion polls, and when judicial nominees are treated like political candidates the independence of the judiciary is put into jeopardy, ultimately eroding the public's confidence in its government.

Moreover, it is this separation of the President's plenary power to nominate from the Senate's advice and consent role which makes "voting to confirm and nominating two very different actions," as I pointed out in my first reply to your article.

BTW, in case of confusion, EYENEVER = Visitor

"voting to confirm and nominating two very different actions,"

Actually, they are two very similar actions with only small differences.

"Do this person belong on the bench?" versus "Is this person qualified?"

That's essentially the same question.

No matter how thin you slice it the fact that McAncient now claims that he wouldn't have nominated the Judges he helped confirm is not only another massive flip flop from Captain Pancakes but it's also another indicator that he's sold out completely to those elements within the GOP that he once rightfully labelled as "Agents of Intolerance".

Everybody knows that Rs try to stack the SCOTUS with conservative-freiendly judges and that Dems try fer liberal-friendly. A year of blah blah blahing over the ideals of the independence of the judiciary won't change that. Trying to even make such assertations in these dark days sounds a little hollow especially since BushCo have practically discredited the entire DoJ by their constant attempts to politicise the place.

some problem with the "cone of silence"

The question of whether or not McCain knew the questions beforehand is kinda made moot by the fact that he largely FAILed to answer any of the questions directly at the debate.

Be Well.