Republican QuagMiers This week: When Republicans turn against Republicans on Supreme Court Nominees.
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Republican QuagMiers

After the Senate rejected his nomination for the Supreme Court, Carswell made an ill-fated run for the GOP Senate nod from Florida. hide caption

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His first two Senate campaigns were restricted to the Conservative Party line. hide caption

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Thirty-four years ago today, Indiana Sen. Birch Bayh ends his short-lived bid for the 1972 Democratic presidential nomination. But he will try again four years later. hide caption

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Q: Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) recently hinted he could vote against President Bush’s nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. I know there were Republican senators who voted against President Reagan’s choice of Robert Bork, but has any Republican senator ever voted against a Republican president's Supreme Court pick who was confirmed? -- Robert Bowman, Atlanta, Ga.

A: Yes, and you don't have to go back that far. Jim Jeffords (VT) and Bob Packwood (OR) voted against Clarence Thomas, President George H.W. Bush's nominee, in his 1991 confirmation. Charles Mathias (MD) and Lowell Weicker (CT) both voted no in 1986 on elevating William Rehnquist, President Reagan’s choice for chief justice.

But the last time a conservative Republican voted against a GOP president's Supreme Court confirmed pick came in 1955, when Eisenhower's choice of John Harlan met with opposition from Idaho Sen. Herman Welker, as well as fellow Republican senator William Langer of North Dakota.

For the record, six Republicans voted against the Bork nomination in 1987, when it went down 42-58: Chafee (RI), Packwood (OR), Specter (PA), Stafford (VT), Warner (VA) and Weicker (CT).

And President Nixon faced dissension in the GOP ranks when he made the ill-fated nominations of Clement Haynsworth and G. Harrold Carswell in 1969 and 1970 respectively. Haynsworth, who was dogged by conflict-of-interest charges, was rejected 45-55, with 17 Republicans (conservatives and liberals alike) voting no: Brooke (MA), Case (NJ), Cooper (KY), Goodell (NY), Griffin (MI), Hatfield (OR), Javits (NY), Jordan (ID), Mathias (MD), Miller (IA), Packwood (OR), Percy (IL), Saxbe (OH), Schweiker (PA), Scott (PA), Smith (ME) and Williams (DE). The nomination was so controversial that even the Republican leader in the Senate, Hugh Scott, and the Republican whip, Robert Griffin, voted against him.

Nixon didn't fare much better the following year with the Carswell nomination, which went down 45-51. Carswell had made some inflammatory statements about segregation earlier in his career that came back to bite him, and 13 Republicans, mostly liberals -- they had liberal Republicans back then -- joined the vote against him: Brooke (MA), Case (NJ), Cook (KY), Fong (HI), Goodell (NY), Hatfield (OR), Javits (NY), Mathias (MD), Packwood (OR), Percy (IL), Prouty (VT), Schweiker (PA) and Smith (ME).

Q: Last week was the 80th birthday of William F. Buckley, the 50th anniversary of his National Review magazine, and the 40th anniversary of his race for mayor of New York. His brother, Jim, who was Bill's campaign manager in '65, ran for the Senate from New York twice, on the Conservative line, losing in 1968 and winning in 1970; he was the nominee of both the GOP and the Conservatives when he sought re-election in 1976. Why didn't he seek the Republican nomination the first two times he ran, instead of running solely on the Conservative Party line? -- John Gizzi, Washington, D.C.

A: Historically, New York had been operating under what was called a "convention" system. That is, the parties chose their statewide nominees at a state convention rather than in a primary. On paper, that changed in 1967, when a new state law stipulated that an unsuccessful candidate could request a primary if he garnered 25 percent of the members of the state committee, or if he submitted 10,000 signatures. But Conservatives in New York knew they were not going to have much luck forcing a Republican primary in a state where Gov. Nelson Rockefeller controlled the GOP. They were thus left to vent their displeasure with the Rockefeller-Javits wing of the party by running on the line of the Conservative Party, which was formed in 1962. It was this kind of dissatisfaction that led to the wooing and eventual candidacy in '68 of James Buckley to take on Sen. Jacob Javits, seeking a third term. Buckley was no threat to Javits’ re-election, but he did garner over a million votes -- 17 percent of the total -- and that set the stage for 1970, when Buckley ran again.

If Javits was a Rockefeller ally, the Republican senator who was running in 1970 -- Charles Goodell -- was a Rockefeller creation. After Robert Kennedy was assassinated in '68, Rocky plucked the unknown Goodell from his upstate congressional seat to fill RFK's Senate post. Rockefeller was never the ultra-liberal Barry Goldwater's supporters made him out to be, but the same couldn't be said about Goodell. A moderate conservative in the House, Goodell became a darling of the left once in the Senate, a strong opponent of the Vietnam War and a vehement critic of President Nixon. Rockefeller, who had endorsed Goodell early in the campaign, seemed to drift away from his protege as the election got closer. As for the Nixon administration, it was officially "neutral" in the race, though everyone assumed it would welcome a Buckley victory; Vice President Spiro Agnew, in fact, went around publicly trashing Goodell.

With Rep. Richard Ottinger, the Democratic nominee, holding onto the liberal Democratic base, and with Goodell, the Republican nominee, splitting the liberal vote with him, Buckley, with the support of conservative Republicans and ethnic Democrats, won a dramatic victory with 39 percent of the vote. It remains to this day one of the more memorable New York Senate contests of all time.

By the time Buckley sought re-election in 1976, however, Rockefeller had left the New York scene; he had become Gerald Ford’s vice president. Also gone were the roadblocks for the GOP to hold a primary. And so the Republican Party, for the first time in over a half-century, was holding a primary for statewide office. As it turned out, there was no suspense in the challenge to Buckley by Congressman Peter Peyser, who ran from Buckley's left. Buckley won by 40 points. But Buckley's chances for a second term, which once looked good when the expectation was that the Democratic nominee was going to be Rep. Bella Abzug, the fiery liberal feminist, evaporated. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who dramatically resigned as U.N. Ambassador and just as dramatically made a late entrance into the Senate race (as a centrist), edged Abzug in the multi-candidate Dem primary and went on to easily unseat Buckley in November.

Q: Thanks for your article on Mario Procaccino (see Oct. 5 column). My entire family was from the Bronx and my parents moved up to Rockland County right before I was born (in 1977). Talking to my parents, they told me about how much the city had deteriorated in the late '60s and '70s, and that they had no choice but to leave the place where they grew up. I follow politics closely, and while I could name almost every member of the House and I know almost every state senator in New York, I had NO idea who Mario Procaccino was until I read his obituary in 1995. I remember wondering how he had come so far in the Democratic Party.

The only thing that I know about Mayor John Lindsay was the complete resentment my mother had for him. It is my understanding -- and this may not be completely fair -- that the outer borough ethnics felt that Lindsay ran the city into the ground and destroyed the middle class neighborhoods by building projects that became drug and crime infested. -- Michael Healy, Wanaque, N.J.

A: It is remarkable to have watched the political transformation of New York City since Lindsay was first elected in 1965. At the time, he was the first Republican to win the mayoralty since Fiorello La Guardia captured a third term in 1941. This year Mayor Michael Bloomberg, though in his heart a Democrat, is on track to win re-election -- the fourth time in a row that the overwhelmingly Democratic city would be electing a Republican mayor. More on the 2005 elections in the next column.

Q: This year the Nobel Peace Prize went to Mohamed ElBaradei, the anti-American arms control "expert" and long-time antagonist of President Bush. A few years ago, the committee gave the award to Jimmy Carter, another Bush foe. Are they deliberately doing this to p*** off Bush? -- Joe Walters, Washington, D.C.

A: Ask me that question next year, when the Peace Prize goes to Cindy Sheehan and Joseph Wilson.

Q: Regarding your notation of "this day in political and baseball history" in your last column: Poor Mickey Owen is always blamed for the passed ball in that 1941 World Series game. No one remembers that the pitcher at the time was Burleigh Grimes, who was reputed to load up the ball on occasion (or more than occasionally). Ask any catcher how easy it is to catch the spitter! -- Dan Domike, Seattle, Wash.

Q: I enjoy your column like you can’t believe. As a baseball fan, I have long held what you opined (in the Oct. 5 column) about baseball and elections. We digress because my heart breaks when some Johnny-One-Note candidate or idiot bigot wins. -- Tom Kuffel, Ill.

A: Tom, I really appreciate your kind comments, but guys, this is not the time to be talking about baseball. More importantly, what the hell happened to Alex Rodriguez in the American League Division Series?

This Day in Political History: Sen. Birch Bayh (D-IN) withdraws from the pack of Democrats considering running for the 1972 presidential nomination. Bayh's decision comes four days after his wife undergoes surgery for cancer (Oct. 12, 1971).

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