Blocking Johnson’s confirmation is, indeed, just politics.
I agree with pretty much everything in this National Review Online column (words I never thought I’d say) by Jonathan Adler. Democratic efforts to grandstand around Johnson’s confirmation are, in fact, "nothing personal … just politics."
Thing is, as I alluded to here, politics is not "just" anything. Particularly in our media-saturated environment, politics — symbolism, optics, strategy, maneuvering– is vital. What we need is for concerns about good ecological stewardship to gain political weight and cachet. Weakening environmental protections needs to have a political cost, if nothing else in public shaming. This is what helps us win significant individual battles.
The stalling of Johnson’s confirmation is not significant on the substance, but it is an effective political gesture. Adler says Democrats are trying to "capitalize on the Bush administration’s poor reputation on environmental policy," but I’d submit that such attempts wouldn’t be very successful if that reputation were not, in fact, accurate. While the CHEERS study might not be that big a deal, it is true that the Bush EPA is terrible on pesticides. While Carper’s legislation might not warrant a full study of its own, it is true that the studies the EPA has conducted on behalf of Bush’s air regulations are heavily biased in favor of industry.
By stalling Johnson’s (inevitable) confirmation, Democrats are drawing attention to legitimate areas of concern on the Bush EPA’s record, and they’re doing it in a flashy, high-profile way. They are trying to seize control of the news cycle, to cut through the clutter. Good for them.