On the front page of the Washington Post today: Democrats Feel Heat From Left on Roberts. It's co-authored by Dan Balz, one of the fairest and most perceptive political reporters of his generation, quite possibly the fairest and most perceptive.
I have gotten the sense in talking to Democrats that many Democratic staffers are skittish about being seen as marionettes being manipulated on judicial nominations by left-wing groups like People for the American Way and the Alliance for Justice. They certainly looked like that when they suggested that Judge Charles Pickering was racist. Pickering testified against a Ku Klux Klan leader and sent his kids to integrated schools in small-town Mississippi in the 1960s. I wonder how many Democratic senators would have had the courage to do that. I'm not at all sure I would have. To suggest such a man is racist is contemptible. But the groups pulled the strings, and the senators danced.
They don't want to be seen doing that in this much higher-visibility situation. And even Charles Schumer, leading the drive to get more papers, has been careful to set his own course. Now the left groups are pressing them hard. As on the war in Iraq, the Democratic Party is split, between a hard left that wants to oppose George W. Bush at every turn and a center-left that certainly opposes him on many things but not on everything. The Democratic senators, especially those on the Judiciary Committee, are in the position of the apocryphal politician who said, "Some of my friends are for the bill and some of my friends are against the bill, and I'm always with my friends." Interesting to see how this will turn out.