My NRO essay today on the Senate Democrats’ request for pre-nomination consultation explains why the Clinton-Hatch example is inapt:
Apart from the fact that one should tremble to cite Clinton as a model of presidential conduct to emulate on anything, the Clinton-Hatch example provides a striking contrast to today’s situation.
Hatch (for whom I then worked) openly invoked the principle that the president was entitled to considerable deference on his Supreme Court nominees. For better or worse, his objection in practice to certain candidates was essentially personal–aimed at individuals whom Republicans disliked or who would create undue political difficulties for them–not jurisprudential. Clinton knew that he could work with Hatch and still nominate justices who were, from Clinton’s result-oriented perspective, indistinguishable from the candidates Hatch raised concerns about. The same is not possible for President Bush with Senate Democrats.