Courting a fight:President Bush nominated Samuel Alito to succeed Sandra Day O'Connor as an associate justice of the Supreme Court today. Bloggers are quickly delivering their up-or-down votes, which—not surprisingly—tend to hew to ideological lines.
"Outstanding pick," praises law professor Todd Zywicki at legal syndicate Volokh Conspiracy. "I've never met the man, but from what I can tell he's smart, experienced, and principled. I can't imagine him not being confirmed." Volokh notable Orin Kerr is also very pleased. (An Alito confirmation, colleague David Bernstein points out, would mean a Catholic majority in the ultimate Brahmin enclave). "Every profile emphasizes his mild manner," notes conservative contrarian Andrew Sullivan. "So he's got the temperament of Roberts with the judicial philosophy of Scalia. From the point of view of the right: about as good as it gets."
"This is a winning political move," writes culture warrior Stanley Kurtz at National Review's conservative roundtable, The Corner. "The Democrats seem trapped here," he says, though he acknowledges the apparent difficulty posed by Alito's support, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, for a requirement that women notify their spouses before having an abortion. (Edward Whelan, at the National Review legal group-blog Bench Memos, cautions those eager to cite his opinion in Casey as evidence of a personal policy view.)
Also at Bench Memos, Mathew J. Franck suggests the nomination "may prove to be the hinge on which some important history turns." Conservative Ed Morrissey spells it out at Captain's Quarters. "Alito, at 55, has the possibility of providing 20-30 years of jurisprudence on the Supreme Court, meaning that he and John Roberts have a real opportunity to turn the court back from its decades-long flirtation with supplanting the Legislature and turning itself into a strange American version of the Iranian Guardian Council," he suggests. "In this nomination, Bush may have hit the home run we wanted with the first nomination." Morrissey thinks Democrats blew their chance for a moderate justice when they withheld support for Harriet Miers, choosing to let conservatives battle over her instead.
The Alito pick "will do much to reconcile movement conservatives to President Bush," writes Yale constitutional law professor Jack M. Balkin at Balkinization. "That, of course, is precisely what Bush had in mind. He wanted a nominee who would get movement conservatives back on his side and who he could get through the Senate. No doubt Alito will produce a fight over ideology and constitutional interpretation, but it is a fight that Bush calculates he can win," says Balkin.
Liberals have a different calculus. "Samuel Alito, unlike John Roberts, offers a spectacularly long and offensive paper trail for his enemies to hang him with, and a preliminary look through the record assures that his enemies will include every single group in the Democratic coalition," writes Ezra Klein at the American Prospect's war room TAPPED. "There is no 'Roe is settled law' or pro-bono work for gay rights here. Add in that George W. Bush is finally on the ropes and liberals are looking to lock in perceptions of his lameness, and you see how an epic confrontation on a provably regressive Supreme Court nominee is going to be hard to pass up. Don't forget, either, that Republicans also want this fight."
From conservative bulldog Jonah Goldberg at National Review's The Corner to Washington Monthly's Political Animal Kevin Drum, the prediction of a knock-down, drag out fight is one thing everyone agrees on. "The movement conservatives wanted a war, and this time they've probably gotten one," assesses Drum. Daily Kos blogfather Markos Moulitsas, characteristically, welcomes the fight. "We now have a vehicle upon which to showcase the differences between us and Republicans, between liberalism and conservatism. This is a golden opportunity, and one wisely denied by Bush and Rove with the Robers and Miers nominations," he writes. "This is a gift to Democrats. … Scalito, along with Bush's social security debacle, will prove to the American people that conservative ideology doesn't have their best interests at heart. Let the debate begin."
"Bush, a President who has refused repeatedly to govern from the center, maintained that approach in selecting a judge who is well known as a committed conservative," writes longtime legal journalist Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog. Hunter, a contributor at progressive clubhouse Daily Kos, calls the nomination "an assault on mainstream Republicans." At liberal salon TPMCafe, Ed Kilgore of the Democratic Leadership Council says that, with the nomination, "George W. Bush is reinforcing his surrender to the Right by giving conservative activists exactly who and what they wanted. … Republican senators, including several with tough re-election fights just ahead, are going to be forced to walk the plank," he writes in a post titled "Slouching Towards Armageddon."
Other liberals are considerably more blasé. "After an uninformative confirmation hearing, Alito will be confirmed by a comfortable margin to the general approval of highbrow centrist opinion," writes the American Prospect's Matthew Yglesias at TAPPED. "He'll proceed to spend the next 20 years on the Court making America a somewhat worse place than it might otherwise be. Conservatives will continue to fail in their efforts to transform the country into some idealized version of the 1950s and will presumably blame this on college professors and Anthony Kennedy."