January 11, 2006
The enormous tension and hype surrounding the Samuel Alito confirmation hearings made the actual event quite anti-climactic, almost farcical. Democrats made their predictable pompous speeches about the importance of judicial precedent (stare decisis) and the invidual right to privacy; to his credit, Alito acknowledged that such a right exists. Unlike her colleagues, Sen. Diane Feinstein actually asked questions, and listened. For their part, the Republicans mostly lobbed easy questions and made gestures of fawning admiration. I was disappointed in Sen. Lindsey Graham, known as an independent-minded conservative, for his lame "wouldn't you agree?" lectures about the rights of prisoners of war, or the lack thereof. What is the point of making everyone wait through that? Almost everyone has made their position known, and few if any senators' votes will be swayed, whatever Alito says to the Judiciary Committee.
Alito may not be as perfectly poised as John Roberts, but I was impressed by him nonetheless. He did slightly better than Roberts in terms of answering questions directly. Regarding the opinion he wrote in 1985 -- that "the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion" -- I didn't like his excuse that that "was as a line attorney in the Department of Justice in the Reagan administration." (see the Washington Post) He did say he would appraoch any case that came before him with an "open mind," which is all anyone can ask. Unless someone can find evidence that he has gone back on his word on important matters in the past, there is no reason to doubt him. He handled the grilling well, and demonstrated that he has the mind and temperment to serve as a judge on the highest court.
All indications are that the Democrats were prepared for an all-out attack. On NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday, Tim Russert really put Sen. Chuck Schumer on the spot. Since the Republican minority went along with the nominations of avowed liberals Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Stephen Breyer when they were nominated by Bill Clinton early in his term, and since the standing committee of the American Bar Association rated Alito "'Well Qualified' by unanimous vote" (with one recusal; that is the highest possible rating), why not let the majority have its way with Alito? Schumer responded with a forced grin, and he must have been in agony. He knew he was in the wrong, but he had to stick to the party line. The Republicans have been upbraided for all sorts of bad things lately, but this was one of those times that reminds me why I'm glad I'm no longer sympathetic to the Democrats.
So, will the Democrats really invoke the "extraordinary circumstances" criterion to justify a filibuster on Alito? Frankly, I find that hard to believe, but it cannot be ruled out entirely. Anyone who truly believes that Alito is "extreme" or "outside the mainstream," as Senators Durbin and Schumer keep saying, is just plain nuts.
The Supreme Court table has been updated.
It's too bad more Democrats can't make the distinction between having an opinion on the issue of abortion, versus having an opinion on the constitutional propriety of the Roe v. Wade decision. Stretching the implied constitutional right to privacy into the right to a medical procedure to which many people vehemently object shows scant regard for the actual words of the Constitution. If interpretations can be made so loosely by one court, then they could be made just as loosely by a different court in the future, in a way that might not be nearly as favorable. As classical liberals (as opposed to modern liberals) know, the Constitution protects us all from the abuse of power by government officials, and Roe v. Wade was a classic abuse of power. What goes around comes around.
Delegate Chris Saxman, who represents the 20th District in the House of Delegates, has begun a new blog to keep constituents informed about ongoing progress in his efforts to trim fat in the state budget and to put the brakes on those who want to spend the burgeoning (and unnecessary) surplus before taxpayers in the Old Dominion figure out what is going on. See Virginia Cost Cutting.