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October 31, 2005

Will Alito Cure the Republican Split?

There was quite a bit of infighting in the Republican party over the Miers nomination. Will the choice of Samuel Alito assuage that?

President Bush, stung by the collapse of his previous choice, nominated veteran judge Samuel Alito on Monday in a bid to reshape the Supreme Court and mollify his conservative allies. Ready-to-rumble Democrats warned that Alito may be an extremist who would curb abortion rights.

This bit of editorializing by the AP in a news story isn't quite accurate. Bush isn't (or shouldn't be) "mollifying" his conservative allies; he is (or ought to be) keeping his campaign promise of a judge in the mold of Scalia and Thomas. Democrats may not like the idea the Bush is keeping this promise...

So consistently conservative, Alito has been dubbed "Scalito" or "Scalia-lite" by some lawyers because his judicial philosophy invites comparisons to conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. But while Scalia is outspoken and is known to badger lawyers, Alito is polite, reserved and even-tempered.

...but that's to be expected. And Alito is known for being polite, but don't expect that to mollify the folks who didn't like Bolton for his temperament.

But it looks like conservatives, far from splitting from the party as many a Democrat was hoping, are sticking to principles.

Abortion emerged as a potential fault line. Democrats pointed to Alito's rulings that restricted a woman's right to abortion. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, a Republican who supports abortion rights, said that Alito's views on the hot-button issue "will be among one of the first items Judge Alito and I will discuss."

In a political twist, Republicans who helped sink Miers' nomination rallied to Alito's side.

Of course...
A leading Democrat who backed Miers led the attack against Alito.

...but that's to be expected.
The fight to nominate Alito, a judge on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals since 1990, is one step in Bush's political recovery plan as he tries to regain his footing after a cascade of troubles _ including the indictment of the vice president's chief of staff _ rocked his presidency.

Some folks (including a commenter at Stones Cry Out) had suggested that this "rocking" would make getting this kind of nominee through, including the possible use of the "nuclear option", politically impossible. I have a feeling, though, that Bush's presidency hasn't been "rocked" nearly as badly as the AP or Democrats think.

No, the Republican party is as tight as ever, even if the President occasionally needs a reminder of who played a huge part in getting him to the dance.

Posted by Doug at October 31, 2005 02:22 PM

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I agree. This will certainly be an opportunity for Republicans to [purge all their remaining "moderates"] unify their diverse factions into a coherent party.

Let the [purging] unification begin!

Posted by: s9 at October 31, 2005 06:37 PM


"You have obviously had a very distinguished record, and I certainly commend you for long service in the public interest… I think it is a very commendable career, and I am sure you will have a successful one as a judge." - Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass), in 1990 on the confirmation of Judge Alito in the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.

And Now...

"If confirmed, Alito could very well fundamentally alter the balance of the court and push it dangerously to the right," – Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass), October 31, 2005 on the prospect of Judge Alito’s confirmation as an associate Justice of the SCOTUS.

I know the double-talk and hypocrisy is part of the game, I just love pointing it out.

Posted by: Deering at November 1, 2005 11:21 AM

Indeed, and let's not forget another double-standard. Chuck Schumer wants another justice "in the mold of Sandra Day O'Conner"; replace a "centrist" with a "centrist".

'Cept that Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a far leftist, replaced center-right Byron White. They certainly didn't treat the Supreme Court as having ideological seats.

And still the Republicans respected the results of the Presidential election and let Clinton have his choice. Democrats have politicized this process while whining that it's politicized.

Posted by: Doug Payton at November 1, 2005 11:28 AM

My last comment to your post had little (or nothing) to do with your point on mending the Republican schism and I apologize for that, so I'll add this:

It was good to see the Senior Senator, Mike DeWine, from my Buckeye State (and former gang of 14 member) say Alito was "a great pick".

Posted by: Deering at November 1, 2005 11:37 AM

Doug..your point, "And still the Republicans respected the results of the Presidential election and let Clinton have his choice. Democrats have politicized this process while whining that it's politicized.", could not have been stated better.

Posted by: Deering at November 1, 2005 11:40 AM

I think the Alito nomination will heal some of the rift, but there still remain serious problems like the federal government spending like a drunken sailor (no offense to sober sailors! :)) and inability to resolve immigration. Alito doesn't cure those other distinct issues, but his nomination helps smooth ruffled feathers a little.

Regarding getting Alito confirmed, 55-44+Jeffords is still.....POWER. Even if a few moderates slip off, we can surely hold the line at 50 GOP Senators, plus a Veep tie-breaker. I don't glory in power for power's sake, nor think power is the end all be all, but the GOP has....POWER. Use it.

Posted by: Glenn at November 1, 2005 04:36 PM

"...Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a far leftist..."

Doug, how do you expect anybody to take you seriously when you make such egregious mischaracterizations so effortlessly?

Do you have any idea what separates the "far left" from the rest of the left, much less American liberals, moderates and conservatives?

Good grief, man. Calling Ruth Bader Ginsburg "far left" is about as senseless as calling Joe Lieberman a Nazi. Please. Stop Behaving Like An Ass.

Posted by: s9 at November 1, 2005 06:29 PM

Exhibit A in which she is quoted as saying that taxpayer-funded abortions are a constitutional right, and casts doubt as to whether Mother's Day and Father's Day are legal (among a number of other examples).

Exhibit B is, of course, her leadership position in the ACLU, the group pushing only for civil rights for liberal intrest groups.

Nonetheless, in spite of these examples, I'll grant that the word "extreme" might not be the best word to apply to her. This report (in PDF format) rates her as 0.4 on the liberal side (where 1 would correlate to either all conservative or all liberal rulings). So even though the vast majority of American's couldn't fathom Mother's Day being unconstitutional and don't think the Boys & Girls Scouts should be integrated, I'll grant you the removal of "extreme".

Now, will you grant me that when Democrats demand that Bush nominate an ideological clone of O'Connor that they're being just a tad disingenuous?

Posted by: Doug Payton at November 1, 2005 09:03 PM

s9, hmmm... Is Scalia a "far rightist"?

Citing foreign laws and precedent in support of decisions is clear evidence that Ginsburg's view of jurisprudence is polar opposite to that of someone like Scalia. Right v. Left - whatever...

What "we" want is a constructionist. A Scalia. An Alito. Like Alito, Ginsburg is extremely well qualified for the SCOTUS. Like Ginsburg, Alito deserves fair treatment by the minority party of the US Senate.

Oh...btw...Ginsburg replaced someone perhaps more conservative than O'Connor.

Posted by: Rick Brady at November 1, 2005 09:06 PM

Doug, you've got to be kidding me.

Have you ever been in the same timezone with a "far left" person? I have, and believe me— your exhibits don't even make a dent. Out on the "far left" is where you find people who seriously argue that private property is the moral equivalent of theft, among other quaint ideas. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is light-years distant from there. Do you SERIOUSLY dispute that?

Rick, be serious.

Scalia isn't "far right" and you'd squeal like a little girl if I said otherwise. The National Socialist Movement is characteristic of America's "far right" and that ain't Scalia.

Seriously, guys. Why do you insist on making these dubious ideological mischaracterizations about your political adversaries when you'll howl like banshees when somebody uses a similar degree of distortion to refer to one of your allies?

Posted by: s9 at November 1, 2005 10:45 PM

"Now, will you grant me that when Democrats demand that Bush nominate an ideological clone of O'Connor that they're being just a tad disingenuous?"

Disingenuous, how? What do you think Democrats are pretending not to know when they make this demand? (Please, try to present a serious answer to the question.)

Posted by: s9 at November 1, 2005 10:50 PM

Dude, what part of "I'll grant you the removal of 'extreme'" didn't you get? I understand your examples of extreme but we have no self-labelled Nazis or Communists currently serving (as far as I know) in high positions in Federal government. Therefore, I don't typically consider these fringes when discussing politics. The fact that there may be folks even further extreme than the Nazis would not make them any less extreme. What I'm comparing is vs. mainstream America. When Justice Ruth says that free abortions are a constitutional right, questions the constitutionality of Mother's Day, and comes out against laws that punish interstate sex traffikers, I'd say that she places herself a bit outside that mainstream. She has both feet firmly in the liberal camp. Is she extreme compared to anti-private-property zealots? No. But from where mainstream America stands, does she look extreme? Guess that's an individual question to be answered, so I'll not go there anymore, but I won't call her "extreme".

Now that I've conceeded this point twice, can we get past it?

And speaking of doing things twice, I guess you need me to ask my original question of you again. I'll even seriously answer yours first, as a good faith token in anticipation of your serious answer to mine. But apparently, I need to reiterate the background information.

As I noted, Democrats had no qualms about replacing a moderately conservative Byron White with a liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In spite of ideological differences, and respecting the fact that Clinton had the right to choose who he wished as a result of winning the election, Republicans voted for her 96-3. Ginsburg was not an ideological replacement for White; she was a shift to the left. In addition, according to the PDF report I linked earlier, Justice Stephen Breyer was even further to the left of who he was replacing--Blackmun--than Ginsburg was. Blackmun was extremely [equal opportunity label] conservative while Breyer shows up as a centrist on the chart. Again, Republicans didn't invoke ideology, and confirmed Breyer 91-9.

So in summary; Clinton's two Supreme Court nominees were both significantly to the left of those they were replacing, and Republicans confirmed them overwhelmingly anyway.

Fast forward to today. Chuck Schumer said that the replacement for Sandra Day O'Connor should be in her mold, invoking ideology. This wasn't an issue before, but now Democrats are all over Alito for his ideology with very little being said about his actual qualifications.

Thus (and please note, here's the answer), Democrats are completely ignoring how well they were treated by Republicans in the 90s, and they are the ones that have politicized the process. What's sad is that Democrats weren't always like this. Scalia was confirmed 98-0 by the Sentate.

I say again: Now, will you grant me that when Democrats demand that Bush nominate an ideological clone of O'Connor that they're being just a tad disingenuous?

Posted by: Doug Payton at November 2, 2005 08:27 AM

Doug Payton dances away from the "far left" charge against Ruth Bader Ginsburg and writes: Now, will you grant me that [Democrats are] being just a tad disingenuous?

Oh, good grief. No, Mr. Payton— I will not concede that Democrats are ignoring how they were treated by Republicans during the 90's. I will insist that they were treated like dirt by Republicans, and they are holding a legitimate grudge.

Disingenuous. Hah! Pull the other one.

What's sad is that Democrats weren't always like this. Scalia was confirmed 98-0 by the Sentate.

He said, completely ignoring how Republicans initiated the descent into partisan gridlock over judicial appointments and have availed themselves at every turn to escalate the conflict rather than offer any chance of reconciliation.

Yes, Mr. Payton. It's quite sad that Democrats weren't always like this. Republicans shouldn't have provoked them, but that's all water under the bridge now.

Posted by: s9 at November 3, 2005 03:28 AM

I conceded your point about the "extremist" label. I said, "I won't call her 'extreme'." You called it "dancing away".

I noted that Republicans gave a fair, non-ideological vote to two liberal Supreme Court justices. You called that being "treated like dirt".

You talked about a Republican decent into "partisan gridlock over judicial appointments, when it has been Democrats who have filibustered an unprecendented number of judicial appointments over partisan ideology. Republicans have not been partisan in their voting patterns for SCOTUS. Democrats have. I provided examples. Yet you call the Republicans "partisan".

And finally, you resorted to the "see what you made me do?" defense.

Now I remember why I stopped taking your comments seriously.

Posted by: Doug Payton at November 3, 2005 09:01 AM

I complained about you calling her "far left" and you danced away from it by conceding that you should call her "extreme" instead.

Posted by: s9 at November 3, 2005 09:11 PM

I complained about you calling her "far left" and you danced away from it by conceding that you shouldn't call her "extreme" instead.

Posted by: s9 at November 3, 2005 09:12 PM

I complained about you calling her "far left" and you danced away from it by conceding that you shouldn't call her "extreme" instead.

I said Republicans had treated Democrats like dirt, and you argued well, at least, they didn't fillibuster Breyer or Ginsburg. They treated Democrats like dirt in other ways.

I said Republicans had initiated the descent into partisan gridlock over judicial nominations, and you argued, well, at least, it was the Democrats who took the escalation into gridlock over SCOTUS nominations. They still initiated the descent by stonewalling so many of Clinton's lower court nominations over ideology.

Look, Doug— I've got a lot of beefs with Democrats for the failure to pay serious attention to the core problems of the base of their political constituency— but you, you're just willfully distorting the historical record for no readily apparent reason.

NB: we are not arguing over whether Democrats are partially to blame for gridlock over the federal bench; they are. You are trying to pretend that Republicans had nothing to do with it; when the truth is they started it while they were in the minority, and they continue to fuel the gridlock now that they're in the majority.

Posted by: s9 at November 3, 2005 09:20 PM