Opening Salvos

Opening Salvos

Opening Salvos

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
Jan. 9 2006 6:18 PM

Opening Salvos

Bloggers have been waiting months for the Senate hearings on the nomination of Sam Alito to the Supreme Court; today is the day. They also discuss the announcement, made Saturday, that Tom DeLay will not seek to regain the position of House majority leader.

Opening salvos: Senate hearings on the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court began today, with charged, sometimes combative, opening statements from the members of the Senate judiciary committee. The interrogatory Q & A is scheduled to begin tomorrow.

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Many on the right believe the confirmation will be a shoe-in. "It's the mismatch of the century!" declares Rick Moran at Right Wing Nut House. "… Judge Samuel Alito; scary smart, learned judge, judicially tempered, unflappable, and given the highest rating by the American Bar Association for competence," he writes. On the other side, he sees "the Democrats; piddle brained, highly emotional, tending toward hysterics, and character assassins extraordinaire."

Others are less confident the judge's qualifications will shine through. "By the time Democrats are through with Alito, they hope to have made the case that Alito will be a pawn of Bush in Bush's war against the American people," observes contributor Blanton at Confirm Them, a companion blog to RedState.org dedicated to Supreme Court nominations. "Republicans have grown comfortable with the idea that Alito will be confirmed," Blanton worries. "Senate Republicans have started to grow lazy."

At legal blog Balkinization, Yale professor Robert Gordon outlines the case against Alito in a lengthy post. "Bush cannot get the legislative votes to repeal the New Deal and Great Society social safety nets, or legislative protections of labor, work safety and the environment and regulation of corporate frauds and torts," he writes. "But he can appoint people in the executive and judicial branches who will work toward these aims covertly, gradually, and under the radar, while feigning otherwise. … If [Alito] is unwilling firmly and forthrightly to declare his independence from the ideologies and executive authorities he has served his entire career, the Democrats should try to keep him off the Court by filibuster."

Some liberals question the wisdom of that advice. "At the end of the day the one and only way to halt, reverse, or even slow the judiciary's rightward evolution is for more progressive politicians to get elected," argues even-tempered liberal Matthew Yglesias at progressive salon TPM Café. "No matter how passionate you are about the judicial question, the priority needs to be on elected more progressive Senators and a Democratic president."

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Despite the relative weakness of Democrats in the confirmation battle, many keen observers believe the nominee needs a strong performance this week. "Judge Alito has a lot to answer for, not the least of which is his long history of deference to executive power," writes ReddHedd at firedoglake. At Discourse.net, law professor Michael Froomkin says Alito faces a difficult battle on several fronts: abortion and women's rights, charges of opportunistic careerism, his stated support for expanded executive power, and credibility questions, primarily those raised by his failure to recuse himself from a lawsuit in which he had a personal financial stake.

And predictions? Atthe National Review's conservative hotbed The Corner, John Podhoretz and John J. Miller see easy confirmation for Alito, while Jonah Goldberg defers. "I'd be surprised if anything could derail the Alito nomination," offers Dan Markel at PrawfsBlawg. "Still, I suspect that at least a dozen more Senate Dems will oppose Alito than were willing to oppose Roberts earlier this year." Conservative commentator Carol Platt Liebau believes the nomination will turn not on ideology or integrity, but on Alito's demeanor during the hearings. If that's so, the future should look bright for the nominee, suggests liberal Mustang Bobby at Bark Bark Woof Woof. "The judge will be utterly charming and disarming as he diffidently smiles his way through the questions and as he frames his replies and his non-replies," he predicts. "The real question is whether the ultimate vote, whether it is to break a filibuster or to vote on the nomination itself, will deviate in any significant sense from straight party membership," writes Sandy Levinson at Balkinization.

At leading Supreme Court digest SCOTUSblog, Fred Smith live-blogs the opening statements; conservative Ed Whelan, at National Review's Bench Memos, follows suit.

Read more blog posts about the hearings. Read a few expert suggestions on how the senators should question Alito in Slate, and find Slate's comprehensive Alito coverage here.

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DeLay steps down:Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay announced Saturday that he would not seek to regain that position even if he survives the several legal and ethical charges that had required him to temporarily step down. "The job of majority leader and the mandate of the Republican majority are too important to be hamstrung, even for a few months, by personal distractions," he said.

"Very elegantly done," praises conservative John Podhoretz at the National Review's clubhouse The Corner. "And if anybody thinks the statement means DeLay is through permanently, that person doesn't understand politics. If DeLay comes through the lousy Ronnie Earle business in Texas clean, which he probably will, and if he isn't excessively bloodied by the Abramoff scandal … he will be in a position in a few years to replace Hastert as Speaker of the House." Colleague Rich Lowry is also looking forward to a second act from DeLay.

At New Republicthink tank The Plank, Michael Crowley sees a very different future. "I think he doesn't even return to Washington next January—whether it's by personal choice, political defeat, or legal doom," he predicts. "Conservatives tend to dismiss this sort of talk as the wishful thinking of liberals, but I say it's a realistic read of DeLay's falling poll numbers back in Texas, a conservative primary challenger on his right, a well-funded Democratic challenger on his left, the encroaching Abramoff investigation …"

At Captain's Quarters, conservative Ed Morrissey worries that the fallout might not be significant enough. "The GOP should be focusing on cleaning house and electing legislative leadership that Americans can trust to do so. … We need a Giuliani of the House and Senate to lead by example and bring ethics back to the forefront of GOP legislative reform."

Read more about Tom DeLay and more about Jack Abramoff.