Commentary: Graham puts country before party with Kagan vote

"Are we taking the language of the Constitution that stood the test of time and putting a political standard in the place of a constitutional standard? Objectively speaking, things are changing, and they're unnerving to me. The court is the most fragile of the three branches. So while it is our responsibility to challenge and scrutinize the court, it is also our obligation to honor elections, respect elections, and protect the court." — Sen. Lindsay Graham

Throughout the first two centuries or so of our nation's history, what Sen. Lindsay Graham did on Wednesday when he voted to confirm President Obama's appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court would have been thoroughly unremarkable. What would have been remarkable would have been for a senator to do otherwise — to vote against confirming a nominee who did not have serious ethical, legal, mental or intellectual problems.

But as Sen. Graham told the Judiciary Committee, things are changing. The voters no longer care about the fundamental values that made our country great. What matters today are individual agendas, and punishing anyone who doesn’t agree with their every opinion.

That's a threat not just to the independence of the judiciary but to the republic itself. Our founding fathers understood that legislators need to be able to study the issues, debate those issues with similarly studied colleagues and come to the best position for the nation, rather than merely reflect the passions of the masses. That's why they created a republic rather than a democracy. Of course, you'd hardly know we have a republic these days; every vote is driven by sophisticated polling that clearly defines the correct partisan position.

This is not just a Republican problem. Democrats are every bit as quick to pander to the extremists in their base. And any Democrat courageous enough to confirm a Republican president's nominee to the high court would be pilloried by voters, just as Mr. Graham is being today. But any one who actually believes in the Constitution has to side with Sen. Graham, and be sickened by the fact that he is alone. As he reminded the committee, the Federalist Papers left no doubt as to the limited reasons the founding fathers had for requiring Senate confirmation of presidential appointments, and they had nothing to do with senators' own political preferences: "It would be an excellent check upon a spirit of favoritism in the president, would tend generally to prevent the appointment of unfit characters from family connection, from personal attachment, and from a view to popularity."

To read the complete editorial, visit www.thestate.com.