In the orgy of acrimony over the Clarence Thomas nomination, there was endless denunciation of "the process." Although that's a little like blaming "the Devil," the claim has some validity. But we must remember that "the process" began with President Bush's nomination of Clarence Thomas, and Bush's role was eloquently captured by Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell:
"President Bush has exercised his right to nominate a candidate for his views on abortion, even though the nominee refuses to discuss those views publicly. The president's current view on abortion is the minority view in the United States. A majority of Americans disagree with the president on abortion. So do a majority of senators. As a result, it is now widely believed that a nominee who agrees with the president on abortion and is willing to say so cannot be confirmed. So the president has sought candidates who agree with him on abortion but whose views are not known, or who will deny having a view. With each nomination the process has become more elaborate, and less informative. For that reason and others, the process of nomination has become uncomfortable and demeaning for all concerned."
When the Thomas nomination was first announced last summer Sen. Robert Packwood, the Oregon Republican, announced that unless Thomas stated how he stood on the question of abortion, Packwood would vote against his confirmation. Thomas refused to do so, and last Tuesday Packwood voted against him.
If we could now find 99 more men and women in the Senate who would take that principled stand, "the process" would work once more as it should.