If we can't afford corruption in West Virginia, how can we afford it in Washington?
Sadly, it's almost impossible to have a real debate about a nominee's philosophy unless he or she is willing to play along. Bork did, and lost; Roberts didn't, and won. The Roberts precedent is one Alito is sure to honor: that discussing narrow-minded views on past or present issues might prejudice his ability to be narrow-minded in cases that will come before the court later.
When a nominee will neither confirm nor deny that his judicial philosophy is outside the mainstream, opponents' only hope besides scandal is that like Bork and Thomas, his personality and temperament come across as outside the mainstream. So far, Alito has come off as a nice man with a few disturbingly nerdy tendencies, like suiting up in full baseball uniform to coach Little League games.
Garden State: If I could spare a few million for advertising, I'd spend less time trying to convince Americans that Sam Alito is a strip-searcher and more time hinting that he's the next Ed Grimley.
My first ad would show those yearbook photos of Alito, along with the New York Daily Newsheadline: "Old-School Family Man: Calls Mother Every Day." Every day? Perhaps we shouldn't have been so quick to dismiss his mother's admission that Alito is very conservative and opposed to abortion.
The Daily News story says it all: "A shy and scholarly homebody, Alito is a gourmet cook and avid gardener who has a stone in his West Caldwell garden carved with the words 'L'Amour Grandit Ici' - love grows here."
Whether you think "Love Grows Here" is a secret, coded message to fundamentalist churches or a tripped-out hippie excuse for the horticulture of the 1960s, liberals and conservatives should be able to agree: not in our backyards.
Even John Roberts, who wrote an entire White House memo in French, wasn't weird enough to expose his family to precious, vapid, kitschy sentiments—and then put on faux-Gallic airs about it.
Presumably, conservatives haven't forgotten the last shy and scholarly homebody they put on the Court: David Souter. "En garde! Le Souter Grandit Ici." ... 5:07 P.M. (link)
Bruce Reed, who was President Clinton's domestic policy adviser, is CEO of the Democratic Leadership Council and co-author with Rahm Emanuel of The Plan: Big Ideas for Change in America.E-mail him at email@example.com. Read his disclosure here.
Photograph of Barack Obama by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.