The Curious Case of Patrick Leahy

Much like a character in a current movie, the world seems to be moving backwards for Senator Patrick Leahy. Or at least in different ways that it does for the rest of us, ways that allow him to act like things he's done in the past simply never happened.

When Senate rules recently forced Leahy to postpone hearings on Eric Holder's controversial nomination for Attorney General, he could barely disguise his contempt for Republicans who requested the delay. 

"I am extremely disappointed, but they have that right, and this historic nomination is held over," he conceded in a voice dripping acid. Even the media observed that Leahy, one of their darlings, was "clearly agitatedand  "did not try to mask his irritation."

Leahy contended that a quick confirmation of Holder would represent "a small but important step in answering the nation's call for bipartisanship." Yet, bipartisanship held far less sway for Leahy eight years ago when he used the very same delaying tactics 
to almost kill President Bush's first A.G. nominee. Then, the Vermont Democrat was more concerned about political posturing than in helping the new president assemble his cabinet, even though he admitted, "This is an especially sensitive time in our nation's history, and many seeds of disunity have been carried aloft by winds that have come in gusts."

Despite declaring that "Appointing the top law enforcement officer in the land is the place to begin if the goal is bringing the country together," Leahy promptly proceeded to plant, even cultivate, those seeds in 2001:

"I wish the President had sent us a nomination for Attorney General that would unite us instead of divide us. That did not happen. This is a nomination that had controversy written all over it from the moment it was announced, and it should surprise no one that today we find ourselves in the middle of this battle. It was a crucial miscalculation for the President and his advisers to believe this nomination would have brought all of us together. Or perhaps this is one instance where consensus was not the objective."

While Leahy fumes over the current delay, he sounded positively sanguine in demanding that the 2001 nomination grind to a halt. "I request ... that the discussion ... and the vote be held over until the next meeting of the Committee or for one week, whichever occurs later. This is consistent with our Committee Rules and the courtesy we have always shown each other."

A courtesy which Leahy now shows his Republican colleagues only grudgingly.

Despite his admission that it was "an especially sensitive time in our nation's history", Leahy argued in 2001 that a delay in confirming Attorney General nominees was no major obstacle to the new administration, citing recent precedents. "Attorney General Meese was first nominated in January 1984 and ... it took 13 months for his confirmation. Even Janet Reno?s relatively noncontroversial nomination took a month."

Leahy demanded the delay even as he conceded that:

"Most of us believe that a President has a right to nominate to Executive Branch positions those men and women whom he believes will help carry out his agenda and policies. But it is only with the consent of the Senate that the President may proceed to appoint. The Constitution is silent on the standard that Senators should use in exercising this responsibility. This leaves to each Senator the task of discerning that standard and deciding how it applies in the case of a controversial nomination."

In Leahy's case, his decision was to delay, and then to vote against, a nominee who had been a former Missouri Attorney General and was at the time a respected member of the Senate, itself.

Now, Leahy chastises Republicans for wanting to take a closer look at an A.G. candidate who has long been considered controversial for his role in problematic Clinton administration decisions: the Marc Rich pardon; reducing the sentence of Puerto Rican terrorists; the Clinton Justice Department 'Wall' memo, that stovepiped intelligence information and contributed to the failures that led to 9/11; etc.

Not even a Washington politician could be so obviously and publicly hypocritical, especially knowing his words and actions--at such polar opposites, depending on whether the president is a Republican or Democrat--are a matter of public record. Not if he respected the constituents to whom he regularly makes commitments. Not if he had any sense of honor, or even shame. Not if he knew the media could easily expose him, if it just cared to. This goes far beyond hypocrisy, far beyond pandering to the far left, far beyond duplicity, even. This is clinical, as if Leahy isn't even aware of his actions eight years ago.

A most curious case, indeed.

Say, has anyone noticed if Leahy is looking younger these days?

William Tate is an award-winning journalist and author.
Much like a character in a current movie, the world seems to be moving backwards for Senator Patrick Leahy. Or at least in different ways that it does for the rest of us, ways that allow him to act like things he's done in the past simply never happened.

When Senate rules recently forced Leahy to postpone hearings on Eric Holder's controversial nomination for Attorney General, he could barely disguise his contempt for Republicans who requested the delay. 

"I am extremely disappointed, but they have that right, and this historic nomination is held over," he conceded in a voice dripping acid. Even the media observed that Leahy, one of their darlings, was "clearly agitatedand  "did not try to mask his irritation."

Leahy contended that a quick confirmation of Holder would represent "a small but important step in answering the nation's call for bipartisanship." Yet, bipartisanship held far less sway for Leahy eight years ago when he used the very same delaying tactics 
to almost kill President Bush's first A.G. nominee. Then, the Vermont Democrat was more concerned about political posturing than in helping the new president assemble his cabinet, even though he admitted, "This is an especially sensitive time in our nation's history, and many seeds of disunity have been carried aloft by winds that have come in gusts."

Despite declaring that "Appointing the top law enforcement officer in the land is the place to begin if the goal is bringing the country together," Leahy promptly proceeded to plant, even cultivate, those seeds in 2001:

"I wish the President had sent us a nomination for Attorney General that would unite us instead of divide us. That did not happen. This is a nomination that had controversy written all over it from the moment it was announced, and it should surprise no one that today we find ourselves in the middle of this battle. It was a crucial miscalculation for the President and his advisers to believe this nomination would have brought all of us together. Or perhaps this is one instance where consensus was not the objective."

While Leahy fumes over the current delay, he sounded positively sanguine in demanding that the 2001 nomination grind to a halt. "I request ... that the discussion ... and the vote be held over until the next meeting of the Committee or for one week, whichever occurs later. This is consistent with our Committee Rules and the courtesy we have always shown each other."

A courtesy which Leahy now shows his Republican colleagues only grudgingly.

Despite his admission that it was "an especially sensitive time in our nation's history", Leahy argued in 2001 that a delay in confirming Attorney General nominees was no major obstacle to the new administration, citing recent precedents. "Attorney General Meese was first nominated in January 1984 and ... it took 13 months for his confirmation. Even Janet Reno?s relatively noncontroversial nomination took a month."

Leahy demanded the delay even as he conceded that:

"Most of us believe that a President has a right to nominate to Executive Branch positions those men and women whom he believes will help carry out his agenda and policies. But it is only with the consent of the Senate that the President may proceed to appoint. The Constitution is silent on the standard that Senators should use in exercising this responsibility. This leaves to each Senator the task of discerning that standard and deciding how it applies in the case of a controversial nomination."

In Leahy's case, his decision was to delay, and then to vote against, a nominee who had been a former Missouri Attorney General and was at the time a respected member of the Senate, itself.

Now, Leahy chastises Republicans for wanting to take a closer look at an A.G. candidate who has long been considered controversial for his role in problematic Clinton administration decisions: the Marc Rich pardon; reducing the sentence of Puerto Rican terrorists; the Clinton Justice Department 'Wall' memo, that stovepiped intelligence information and contributed to the failures that led to 9/11; etc.

Not even a Washington politician could be so obviously and publicly hypocritical, especially knowing his words and actions--at such polar opposites, depending on whether the president is a Republican or Democrat--are a matter of public record. Not if he respected the constituents to whom he regularly makes commitments. Not if he had any sense of honor, or even shame. Not if he knew the media could easily expose him, if it just cared to. This goes far beyond hypocrisy, far beyond pandering to the far left, far beyond duplicity, even. This is clinical, as if Leahy isn't even aware of his actions eight years ago.

A most curious case, indeed.

Say, has anyone noticed if Leahy is looking younger these days?

William Tate is an award-winning journalist and author.