Senator Cottonlock Refuses a Litmus Test

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Coverage of the Supreme Court vacancy (Or “vacancies,” as Rehnquist tops nearly everyone’s dead pool.) has taken a back seat to the Rove/Plame story, and I’m not complaining. They should’ve been covering this in 2003, when most of the country still believed the WMD nonsense, but a two year old story is still better than shark attack coverage or hurricane stock footage.

Before Turd Blossom Dome broke, the Republicans were spouting talking points which argued that a Supreme Court nominee should be picked solely on the basis of his/her legal qualifications, and not their judicial background. It’s a way to avoid asking where the nominee stands on contentious issues like abortion or the constitutionality of putting the word “God” on every available public surface. Contrary to the media’s coverage of the pious “values voters” who populate the red states, a majority of Americans support the Roe v. Wade decision. The only way the administration can appoint justices who’d overturn it is by sneaking them in without asking where they stand on the government’s role in people’s private lives.

Some feared that advocating for this approach was also laying the groundwork for the nomination of some administration lackey who had little judicial experience. The judicial branch of government is like the National League to me, I’m aware of it, and I’m familiar with the key players, but I don’t pay enough attention to have an informed opinion.

However, my main problem with the whole Supreme Court debate is rampant use of the phrase “Litmus Test,” which is generally used by those who think asking a nominee where they stand on a particular issue is some sort of invasion of privacy. It’s as if they believe the litmus test is a bad thing. I’ve taken a couple of chemistry classes, and I have nothing but praise for the litmus test. It lets you know if a solution will dissolve your fingers or melt your eyeballs. Call me a hippy douche if you must, but I think that’s a good thing.

And a metaphorical litmus test performs a similar function. It lets the public know where a nominee stands and if they are safe to drink. It’s not absolute, but gives everyone an idea where a particular nominee stands in the continuum of ideology. Ideally, a justice would be a 7 if ideology was converted to the pH range, but that titration shit is fucking hard and I’d be happy with anyone that isn’t a strong acid or base.