WASHINGTON – The head of the Republican Party on Friday faulted some Democrats and liberals who want to turn "a judicial confirmation into a political campaign" and called for swift Senate confirmation of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts (search).
Ken Mehlman (search), the chairman of the Republican National Committee, used an address at the organization's annual summer meeting to praise President Bush's domestic record and his selection of Roberts, criticize judicial activism and focus on the party's outreach to black and Hispanic voters.
Mehlman argued that in 1993, President Clinton picked Ruth Bader Ginsburg (search), a judge with a liberal record, for the high court and Senate Republicans treated her fairly although she declined to answer many specific questions at her confirmation hearing.
"But the process was orderly and dignified nevertheless, thanks to Republicans who understood that she was fair-minded and qualified," Mehlman said. "I believe Judge Roberts has the right to expect the same treatment, and the same swift confirmation."
He criticized Democrats and liberal groups who try to portray Roberts as anything less than an impartial jurist.
"Unfortunately, some on the other side want to turn a judicial confirmation into a political campaign," said Mehlman, arguing that Roberts will be a "superb Supreme Court justice."
The RNC selected Pittsburgh for the meeting in part because Democrats have made two-term Republican Sen. Rick Santorum (search) a top target as he seeks re-election next year. Polls show Santorum, the third-ranking Republican in the Senate, trailing his Democratic challenger, Pennsylvania Treasurer Bob Casey Jr.
The last time the RNC was in Pittsburgh, a Democratic stronghold, was 1856 — four years before choosing Abraham Lincoln as its presidential nominee.
Mehlman invoked the Great Emancipator's name as he targeted traditionally Democratic minorities.
"The party of Lincoln trusts the people," he said. "We believe in Democratic decision making."
Mehlman said judicial activism derails the political process, citing the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion and last year's ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Court to allow same-sex marriage. The latter made "it that much more difficult to come to a national consensus on the issue through the democratic process."
The Republican chairman cited Bush's recent legislative successes, including a massive highway bill, a free-trade agreement and an energy measure. He made no mention of Iraq and the U.S. effort to bring democracy to the region.