Over the last few days, the Republican noise machine has put on a flawless exhibition of manufacturing a controversy out of nothing but whole cloth and thin air. Those, of course, are the raw materials the Republican noise machine takes pride in working with. Where’s the challenge in working with mere facts?
…Republicans are looking for the next legislative deal to attack and have trained their sights on President Barack Obama‘s nomination of Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson‘s brother for a federal judgeship.
Republicans gleefully circulated a Weekly Standard piece yesterday that asked if Obama was trying to buy Matheson’s vote by nominating his brother, Scott, to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Both the White House and Matheson’s office swiftly answered the question with a resounding ‘no.’ And both Republican senators from Matheson’s home state of Utah support the nomination.
Here’s Orrin Hatch‘s official reaction to the announcement of Scott Matheson’s nomination:
I’m pleased President Obama has nominated Scott Matheson to fill the vacancy on the Tenth Circuit. I’ve known Scott a long time and he is a capable, bright attorney whose experience has prepared him for judicial service. The Matheson family has had a significant impact on Utah and can rightly be proud of Scott’s nomination
The Salt Lake Tribune expanded on that:
Hatch said he knew Scott Matheson was going to be the nominee more than a month ago and disputes any idea that Obama was trying to get a vote for the nomination.
Utah’s other Republican senator, Robert Bennett, put out this statement, through a spokesman:
Sen. Bennett has heard of all kinds of pressure being applied and offers being made to Democrats for votes on health care, but Scott Matheson’s nomination is not one of those because it has been in the works for a long time.
And this was Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz:
“I’m very pleased that President Obama selected Scott to serve as a judge on the federal bench,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz said. “His distinguished scholarship as an attorney and law school dean, and his devoted public service to Utah and to the United States, make him an excellent nominee. Good choice, Mr. President. Good choice.”
To give credit where credit is due, John McCormack of the Weekly Standard kicked it off with a gossip-column blog post on Wednesday. Politico gleefully picked it up right away (have they ever seen a piece of baseless rumor-mongering they didn’t like?). Michelle Bachmann then showed up to trumpet it on Larry King Live:
Because today, the president offered a judgeship to the brother of a member of Congress. Tonight, the president has that same member of Congress at the White House, pressuring him to change his vote on health care. We need to have an — an independent investigation into this matter…
On Thursday, Glenn Beck ranted about it on his radio show, and Fox News‘ Neil Cavuto gave it some nudge-nudge wink-wink air-time too. In the afternoon, a Fox News reporter brought it up at the daily White House briefing.
This morning, it was on Fox News‘ Fox & Friends. MSNBC‘s Morning Joe dutifully stepped up to the plate, as well. As Media Matters‘ headline put it: “Morning Joe crew latest to forward baseless rumor that Obama is “selling judgeships”“.
All this despite not a shred of evidence of any quid pro quo, emphatic denials from all concerned — the White House, Scott Matheson, Rep. Jim Matheson — and strong rejections of the innuendo by several Republican members of Utah’s congressional contingent (who would be in the best position to know the inside story).
Isn’t there also the small matter of how such a deal needs to be cut? Do you just announce his brother’s nomination up front, and then expect Jim Matheson to vote as agreed? Or do you buttonhole Jim Matheson and whisper in his ear “If you play your cards right, sonny boy, your brother could be a judge, you know…”? Don’t you need to leave those ifs and coulds dangling tantalizingly in front of his eyes? Isn’t that how the game is played?