18 September 2017

Note from Norm: What Al Franken Wants Nobody Should Want

Minnesota Senator Al Franken’s crusade against conservatism in America is well-known as is his penchant for carrying that crusade too far.

His ideologically driven opposition blocking the appointment of eminently qualified Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras to fill a vacancy on the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which serves Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa and Arkansas is a prime example.

Stras, who was one of a handful of people considered by President Trump to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court has served on Minnesota’s highest court since 2010.

Last week Franken announced he would fail to return a “blue slip” to the Senate Judiciary Committee – the impact of which, under Senate tradition, would block Stras from getting a Judiciary committee hearing and ultimately an up or down vote on his nomination.

He complained that Stras was too conservative.

In fact, on his Facebook page stating that “…I have grown concerned that, if confirmed to the federal bench, Justice Stras would be a deeply conservative jurist in the mold of Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, justices who the nominee himself has identified as role models.”

And then, in a comment worthy of scorn that only Justice Scalia himself could have written, Franken went on to say:

“I had hoped that, in recognition of our different views, President Trump would work with me to identify a consensus candidate—a nominee whose experience demonstrates an ability to set aside rigid beliefs in favor of finding common ground. But rather than work together to select a nominee who is a judicial moderate, the White House had already settled on Justice Stras before first approaching me, and the president nominated him despite the concerns that I expressed.”

Let’s be open and honest about why Senator Franken opposes one of the most qualified jurists of his generation:  politics and ideology.  Franken’s opposition to Justice Stras is partisan, obstructionist politics at its worst.

For Franken, ideology trumps qualifications.

It is qualifications that Senators, both Democrats and Republicans, should be focusing on when it comes to approving – or rejecting – the nomination of judges to federal courts by Presidents.

Denying a vote on a judge because he is not, according to Senator Franken, a “…judicial moderate…” is shortsighted.

Senator Franken sacrifices Minnesota’s own interests for a narrowing ideological interest.

Stras would fill what has been long recognized as the Minnesota seat on the 8th Circuit.

The Presiident can easily circumvent Franken by appointing a conservative jurist from a Midwest state which would not be blocked by an Uber liberal Senator.

What’s more damaging is that Franken sets a standard that, if followed, would ensure that there would be no more Scalia’s on our nation’s courts as well as no more Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s, Thurgood Marshall’s or William Rehnquist’s.

Elections have consequences.

Conservative presidents tend to appoint conservative jurists.

Liberal presidents tend to appoint liberal jurists.

Had Hillary Clinton won the election, I’m confident Franken would have been very happy with her nominee for the 8th Circuit seat. But she didn’t-

The standard for confirming judges is not that they think like you- or pass your ideological litmus test.

Competency and character, not ideology and politics, should be the standard- and Stras easily passes the competency and character tests.

As Ed Whelan in the National Review points out:

It’s difficult to see how President Trump could have found a more highly qualified candidate for the Eighth Circuit vacancy in Minnesota than David Stras. A Minnesota supreme court justice since 2010, Stras has earned the respect of his colleagues across ideological lines: among the (at least) eight former justices who support his nomination is Alan Page, the longtime liberal justice—and, before that, Hall of Fame defensive tackle for the Vikings—who served with Stras for five years. Page hails Stras as having “all the attributes and qualifications necessary to make an excellent circuit court judge.” It’s no surprise at all that Stras received the ABA’s highest possible rating: a unanimous “well qualified.”

The Star Tribune Editorial Board, not known as a bastion of conservatism, in an editorial entitled, “Franken’s ignoble rejection of Stras nomination” writes:

“Rather, Franken said he rejected Stras for one reason: the justice’s conservative views”

Retired Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Paul H. Anderson wrote:

“While Stras is more conservative than I would like, that is not the point. The question is whether Stras is qualified to serve on the Eighth Circuit. And he is.”

Yet, qualified isn’t what Al Franken wants.

What Al Franken wants is a judge who is in the mold of Al Franken.

Which nobody in America should want on the nation’s highest courts.