Dubner had suggested that Lott's vote was not driven by the purest of motives:
Lott's vote, it would seem, was just to resist the integration of the Fourth Circuit, which had never seen an African American judge; Republicans blocked four separate African American nominees during Clinton's presidency.Nyhan attacks Dubner for engaging in a "faux-psychological speculation. Without supporting evidence, it's just a blatant accusation of racism against Lott for opposing a black nominee -- the same kind of reductionism that Republicans use when attacking Democrats as bigots for opposing minority or religiously conservative judicial nominees."
Let's look a little more closely.
At the time of the Gregory vote, Lott's office articulated Lott's rationale for voting against Gregory as follows (see here):
"This was an institutional decision based on a statement Senator Lott made last year that any approval of federal judges during the recess should be opposed," said Lott's spokesman Ron Bonjean.Last Wednesday, the Senate voted to confirm William H. Prior, Jr., as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. The following passage from the New York Times describes the vote:
The Senate voted, 53-45, to confirm Judge Pryor for a lifetime appointment to the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, based in Atlanta. He has been sitting on the tribunal since early 2004 under a temporary presidential appointment that would have expired late this year without the Senate confirmation.(My emphasis.)
Three Republicans voted against confirmation - Senator Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both of Maine, and Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island.
Now real quick: Can anyone tell me how the Junior Senator from Mississippi voted?
There are several possibilities that would explain Lott's vote other than the one suggested by Dubner. For instance, he has reconsidered his position with respect to recess appointments and now, as a matter of policy, doesn't believe that they are such a bad thing.
And I have a fee simple deed to a large bridge in New York that I will sell for a song.