Cornyn's Smart Politics — and Principles

One of the footnotes in the historical events of yesterday was the news that Hillary Clinton's confirmation to be secretary of State would be delayed.

The reason? Texas Sen. John Cornyn (R) objected to the unanimous consent motion to confirm Clinton's nomination. Instead of being approved as a matter of process, the nomination will be subject to an up-or-down vote in the Senate.

On a day that was supposed to be free of politics, many Democrats howled, angrily charging that, as one Democrat told me, Cornyn engaged in bitter partisan politics at a time when we're supposed to be coming together.

Let's be clear. Demanding that senators stand up and be counted on one of the most important, if not the most important, Cabinet posts is not partisan politics. Nor is it partisan to seek more information on what any objective observer would at the very least call the unique relationships of the secretary of State-designate's spouse and foreign nationals. It is putting principle first and doing your job.

In his Inaugural address literally minutes before, President Barack Obama talked of having the government "held to account." That's exactly what Cornyn did.

No doubt, the vote for Hillary Clinton's nomination — she is expected to be confirmed easily — could come up in various campaigns in 2010. Defending one's voting record — being held to account — is a cornerstone of our Republic.

That Cornyn's actions are smart politics does not take away from his standing up for an important principle.