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Gone Nuclear, Be Back Soon

An conservative group's alarmist plea to promote the nuclear -- er, constitutional option on judicial nominees botches the facts.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 4/1/2005

The conservative Center for Individual Freedom (CFIF) apparently rented out NewsMax's e-mail list to send the same overly excited message twice in two days.

"Unless you take action TODAY -- our dreams for a conservative Supreme Court may go up in smoke," reads the message, signed by CFIF president Jeff Mazzella; the online version of it is here. The centerpiece of the plea is a opportunity to send a "personalized blast fax" to "President George Bush and each of the 55 Republican Members of the Senate -- that's 56 faxes." This is all done for a fee, of course. The payment page notes: "We Respectfully Ask for A Minimum Contribution of $20.00, But You May Give More If You Wish."

Mazzella's message is so filled with distortions and outright lies that one has to wonder if NewsMax was doing their fact-checking.

Here are a few of those problematic statements:

  • "Senate Democrats have obstructed and filibustered President Bush's nominees to the federal bench for four years now."

Wrong. Of 229 judicial nominees Bush has submitted during his first term as president, 219 were approved; only 10 have been blocked.

  • " is the left-wing organization funded by Socialist billionaire George Soros that compared President Bush to the NAZIS during the presidential election."

Wrong again. MoveOn didn't compare Bush to the Nazis; an entry for an ad contest run by MoveOn made the claim, and MoveOn removed the entry from its web site when people started complaining. Meanwhile, there's no record of the Center for Individual Freedom complaining when conservatives compared Democrats to Nazis.

  • The Kennedy-Daschle-Reid cabal created the wedges and wounds four years ago when they started filibustering President Bush's nominees.

Wrong once more. According to another conservative group, the Free Congress Foundation, 102 Clinton judicial nominees were denied an up-or-down vote by Senate Republicans (and, as ConWebWatch has noted, that still wasn't enough for some conservatives, who wanted even more nominees blocked). Is Mazzella saying that the blockage by Republicans of 10 times as many judicial nominees as Republicans have accused Democrats of blocking did not create "wedges and wounds"?

And finally...

  • A few months ago, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist vowed to finally put a stop to this obstructionism by employing what he called the "Constitutional Option" -- or what the liberal media has dubbed the "Nuclear Option."

"Constitutional option" is a term recently contrived by conservatives because it's more touchy-feely than "nuclear option"; it seems to have originated, or least was popularized, in a February paper by a pair of conservative lawyers, Martin Gold (most recently a floor adviser to Senate majority leader Bill Frist) and Dimple Gupta (employee of the Bush Justice Department) purporting to defend the nuclear option's constitutionality. It was published in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, which describes itself as "the nation's leading forum for conservative and libertarian legal scholarship." A draft of this article was apparently making the rounds of Senate Republicans at the end of 2004, according to The New Yorker (as noted in an article on

Contrary to Mazzella's claim, the term "nuclear option" has been used by such "liberal media" denizens as the Washington Times, Robert Novak, Human Events magazine ... and the Center for Individual Freedom, which says nary a thing about a "constitutional option" in a 2003 article on the issue.

And what do we see in Mazzella's letter? Response statements such as "I want to tell these 55 Senators to govern like members of a majority party and support the 'Nuclear Option'" and "I implore each of you [congressmen] to show courage, govern like Members of a majority party and support the 'Nuclear Option'" and a claim that "the Nuclear Option is NOT A NEW IDEA." For allegedly being a terminology promoted by the hated "liberal media," Mazzella certainly shows no shyness in using the phrase.

Given that Mazzella and CFIF can't get basic facts correct, there's more than enough reason to believe the letter's other claims, such as claims that Democratic senators Robert Byrd and Edward Kennedy previously supported the "nuclear option," are suspect as well, or at least not as presented, since no evidence is provided to back the claims up.

If Mazzella told the truth in his solicitations, he might reel in less money, but he'd be able to sleep a little better at night.

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