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Ezra Klein launched his new Vox venture on Monday with a piece titled, “How Politics Makes Us Stupid.” Looking at some recent research suggesting that “individuals subconsciously resist factual information that threatens their defining values,” Klein concluded, “People weren’t reasoning to get the right answer; they were reasoning to get the answer that they wanted to be right.”

On Friday, Politico offered a case in point with an article titled, “Obama now outpacing George W. Bush on judges.”  Motivated perhaps by a desire to show that Republican obstruction of President Obama’s judicial nominees wasn’t unusual and therefore Senate Democrats’ decision to deploy the “nuclear option” wasn't necessary, the National Review (“Obama outpaces Bush on judicial nominations”), the Wall Street Journal (“Obama picks up pace on judicial picks, tally surpasses George W. Bush’s”) and even the Washington Post quickly (“Obama overtakes George W. Bush on judges confirmed”) quickly followed suit.

But if you went around parroting those headlines, you’d look pretty stupid, indeed. As the same data show, President Bush’s choices for the federal bench were confirmed at a rate 9 percentage points higher (88 to 79 percent) than Barack Obama’s:

Over the course of his presidency so far, Obama has nominated 301 judges and gotten 237 confirmed. By this point in his presidency, Bush had nominated 267 judges and had 234 of them confirmed.

As of April 4, Obama has gotten 44 circuit court judges and 191 district court judges confirmed. As of April 4, 2006, Bush had 43 circuit court and 189 district court judges confirmed.

Please read below the fold for more on this story.

An alarming number of judicial vacancies had plagued the Obama administration throughout his first term. Part of that was Obama’s own fault. As Dylan Matthews documented in July 2013, President Obama lagged in selecting new appointees to the federal bench. But even with that caveat, Obama’s picks faced unprecedented GOP obstruction that derailed their nominations at record rates. After one year in office, Obama saw only 43 percent of his judicial selections confirmed, compared to 79 percent for George W. Bush. After two years, Obama’s figure improved to 58 percent, still far behind Presidents George W. Bush, Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Reagan and Carter who had 77 percent, 90 percent, 96 percent, 98 percent, and 97 percent confirmed respectively. By the end of 2012, Obama’s appeal court picks actually enjoyed a higher confirmation rate (71 to 67 percent) than Bush’s. But among district court nominees, Obama still trailed.

So, the real story about staffing the federal judiciary is this: Thanks in part to a massive effort by his chief of staff Denis McDonough and counsel Kathy Ruemmler to reprioritize judicial nominations for his second term, Barack Obama has begun to make headway in filling judicial vacancies Chief Justice John Roberts called a “crisis.” But the biggest factor was breaking through the Republican logjam, an advance made possible only by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s decision to “go nuclear” and end the judicial filibuster for all seats but the Supreme Court. Even still, GOP’s “blue-slip” holds are helping to keep 31 Obama nominees from getting an “up or down vote.”

There are many reasons why politics is making us stupid. But you don’t have to buy Ezra Klein’s argument to see that Politico isn’t helping.

Originally posted to Jon Perr on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 01:16 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks for the charts (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    myboo, thomask, kkkkate

    I think we all knew this (as partisan Democrats) already, but it's great to have the proof. You'd think that if Roberts considered it a crisis, Senate Republicans would have understood what he meant, but, as we all know, they just want to stop the clock until, well, forever.

    Seneca Falls, Selma, Stonewall

    by Dave in Northridge on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 01:59:12 PM PDT

  •  Politico sucks (0+ / 0-)

    I stopped reading politico years ago when I realized their stories were more often than not, factually wrong.

  •  Numbers games (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AlexDrew, Victor Ward

    You are correct - Bush enjoyed a a higher rate of confirmations.  Politico is also correct

    President Barack Obama’s aides are celebrating a confirmation count that outpaces President George W. Bush’s.
    RAte and count are two different things.

    “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

    by Catte Nappe on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 02:18:39 PM PDT

  •  The notion that some outside force makes (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Republico "stupid" is, well, stupid.

  •  I found Obama's first term lack of attention... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    oblomov, llywrch

    to judicial nominees baffling. That might be the weakest part of his record.

    I'm glad he's concentrating on it now.

    Art is the handmaid of human good.

    by joe from Lowell on Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 07:07:20 PM PDT

  •  But Mitt Romney pays a million bucks in taxes. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    oblomov, happymisanthropy

    What's this nonsense you're trying to peddle about him only paying 12%. Everyone knows a million is more than 12.

    If you don't watch news, you're un-informed. If you watch Fox news, you're mis-informed. (paraphrasing Mark Twain)

    by edg on Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 07:09:01 PM PDT

  •  Republico:"How stupidity makes us Politico"/nt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013 (@eState4Column5).

    by annieli on Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 07:09:37 PM PDT

  •  When has "Tiger Beat on the Potomac" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ever gotten a story forward?

    I want 1 less Tiny Coffin, Why Don't You? Support The President's Gun Violence Plan.

    by JML9999 on Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 07:10:29 PM PDT

  •  YOu got it wrong. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Andrew Lazarus, bear83, Jon Perr

     photo politico_judges-new.png

    Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and it won't do him any damn good without a hook, line and sinker, and a pond with fish in it.

    by tomwfox on Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 07:12:46 PM PDT

  •  Intentional shortsightedness? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    llywrch, indres, Morgan in Austin, asm121

    Since Harry Reid took steps to reduce obstruction, Obama nominee confirmations outpace those of George W. Bush.

    Since Obama's nominees are now being confirmed at a higher rate, Politico concludes it isn't necessary to reduce obstruction.

  •  Reminds me of those advertisers (0+ / 0-)

    who trumpet how their product is the "Fastest growing __ in America."
    Yeah, two years ago they sold thirty of them, and last year they sold thirty-six.

    Reading DailyKos is like getting the newspaper two weeks early. But without the lottery results.

    by jazzmaniac on Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 07:27:57 PM PDT

  •  This is a key part of the original Movement Conser (0+ / 0-)

    Conservatism plan.  Take over the Judicial Branch and turn it hard, hard Right.  Thus the Federalist Society was formed and brilliantly succeeded, to our extreme detriment as humans, not corporations.

    Brock's  Republican Noise Machine is good on this.  It has an excellent history of the early conservative movement.  Prior to the Kochs, from Buckley and Goldwater on.  Plenty of scheming and thorough planning (and funding).

  •  I would look at the *rejection* rate. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    llywrch, eztempo

    I would expect pretty much everybody nominated for these jobs to be reasonably competent, and the Senate should be confirming people based on that rather than ideology.

    So, that said, even with the de-filibustering performed by Reid, Obama's judicial nominations are getting rejected at double the rate of Dubya's. There's no competence-related issue here, at least not one that anybody's talked about... and I would expect complaining from Republican senators, if they had a substantial complaint. So, WTF, Senate?

    •  Those high rates pre-Clinton tell that tale (0+ / 0-)

      Along with the "blue-slip" tradition in the Senate was the tradition of accepting the results of a presidential election, one of which was that judges were evaluated on character, moral fiber, competence and experience -- NOT ideology.  That was eroded by Bork, the guy that oversaw Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre, who was both too extreme and questionable ethics-wise (see SNM), not to mention was an intentional poke in the eye to Senate Democrats by the Reagan White House.

      But, it was the advent of "the politics of personal destruction" and winner-take-all approach to running Congress that came with Newt Gingrich along with the Clinton Derangement Syndrome on the part of Gingrich and his class's moneyed supporters that actually put an end to the genteel deference to the President on nominations -- that eliminated the acceptance of an election's consequences side of the "blue-slip" vs. "grill & approve" Senate tradition.  You can see that easily from the 97%-, 98% rate through Reagan, even the 90% rate of G.H.W. Bush's, to the marked drop-off under Clinton.  

      Democrats in the Senate have been very slow to catch on that the rules have changed.  Particularly Senator Leahy.

  •  What good's confirmation if R's nominate the judge (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy is doggedly holding onto the "blue-slip" tradition that makes Reid's nuclear action moot:  any Republican can block any or all of the President's picks for the Federal bench in his home state until the White House agrees to nominate a Republicans' choice.  This is being played right now to seat a Tea Party/Federalist Society ideologue in Pennsylvania, totally usurping the Constitutional prerogative of the President.

    As Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has the unilateral ability to eliminate the blue slip today if he chose to, though he has thus far refused to do so. Indeed, one of Leahy’s Republican predecessors, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), largely did just that when he was Judiciary Chair and George W. Bush was president.

    So long as Leahy clings to the blue slip, however, deals like the one under consideration in Pennsylvania will always be a possibility. Indeed, Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) wielded the blue slip to obtain a lopsided deal where the White House nominated four Republican choices and only two Democratic picks to judicial vacancies in the state of Georgia.

    I wonder what proportion of Obama's nominees that have been confirmed are actually Republican Caucus choices.  That is the meaningful statistic.
  •  Ezra Klein is a fake... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...liberal.  A wonk who thinks raising the minimum wage is a bad idea.  He is absolutely not to be trusted.  

  •  Actually, few of Obama's nominees have been (R) (0+ / 0-)

    In his first term, only five of Obama's district court nominees have been Republican, and none of his circuit court nominees were GOP identified (as of his first term, the only term for which I have seen statistics on the subject of party identification). The district number is a comparatively low rate, and the non-existent GOP circuit court nominees is an unprecedented departure of nominal bipartisan representation at the appellate level, according to federal judiciary scholar Sheldon Goldman:

    It's important to remember, also, that historically Senators forward or float names of nominees for district court vacancies, and the White House floats names for circuit court nominees. The White House has to sign off on the former and the home state senators sign off on the latter. The curious thing about the GOP senators however, is that they have not been turning in blue slips for judicial nominees that they themselves recommended to the President. Senator Burr (R-NC) is a current case in point. He has refused to return a blue slip for Jennifer Prescod May-Parker, a nominee who was announced ten months ago, base don his recommendation.

    It's always darkest before it gets less dark.

    by Karma Electra on Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 10:07:05 PM PDT

    •  Well... (0+ / 0-)

      Not since Ronald Reagan have we seen a president who did not appoint judges of the opposite party to circuit court judgeships, according to Goldman's analysis, linked just above.

      Even GW Bush appointed three or four circuit judges who were democrats (Roger Gregory, Barrington Parker, and a couple others).

      So, no, it's not fair to say Obama is appointing Republicans, and certainly it is not fair to say that Obama is appointing more judges from the opposite party than prior presidents; he's appointing less than the two Bushes (recall he appointed Sotomayor) and Clinton (who appointed more than a handful of Republicans... probably because six of his eight years as president was under a Republican controlled Senate).

      It's always darkest before it gets less dark.

      by Karma Electra on Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 11:49:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  *SIGH* (0+ / 0-)

    "Figures don't lie, but liars do figure."

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