A peek behind the curtain

A PEEK BEHIND THE CURTAIN…. If it sometimes seems as if conservative players respond to political events by reading from the same script, it’s because the right really does coordinate in advance in preparation for partisan conflicts. Brian Beutler reported yesterday on conservatives’ efforts in advance of the Supreme Court nomination fight.

Liberals have been warning President Obama for weeks that Republicans and conservative activists would fight and seek to delay confirmation of his Supreme Court nominee no matter whom he picked. Turns out they were right.

In an April 22 conference call with RNC members, which was recorded and passed my way by a source, activist Curt Levey, director of the conservative Committee for Justice, offered Republican operatives candid strategic advice, pressing them to put up a fight against even the most moderate of judges, and providing a glimpse of the GOP’s playbook for obstructing Obama nominees.

The crux of the GOP’s strategy is to use Obama’s nominee to wedge vulnerable Democratic senators away from the party, and drag the confirmation fight out until the August congressional recess, to eat up precious time Democrats need to round out their agenda.

This isn’t really a surprise, but it’s nevertheless interesting to hear the audio of the candid discussion.

Indeed, Levey concedes that Republicans should be encouraged to lie publicly, mischaracterizing moderate nominees as radicals as part of the larger effort. For that matter, the key is to force needless delays that make policymaking this year all but impossible. Levey told his cohorts, “The tougher the [nomination] fight, the less capital and time and resources and floor time in the Senate there is to spend on immigration and climate change, etc.”

And what about Senate Republicans who may be inclined to vote for the nominee’s confirmation? Levey is all right with this, just so long as they go along with efforts to shamelessly drag out the process for no apparent reason.

If political observers see this strategy executed, at least we’ll know where it originated.

That said, there’s still a reasonably strong chance that opposition to Kagan will underwhelm Levey and his colleagues. Yesterday, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) conceded that it’s hard for him to envision a GOP filibuster of Kagan’s nomination, and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) suggested he’s likely to support her confirmation.

These are generally the signals we hear when a nominee is going to be successful. If so, Levey’s script may be shelved until next time.