Monday, January 16, 2006

NYT: "Dianne Feinstein's comment is very disturbing" - Kate Michelman

But she [Dianne Feinstein] added: "I mean, this is a man I might disagree with. That doesn't mean he shouldn't be on the court."
Some abortion rights advocates reacted with alarm.
"Dianne Feinstein's comment is very disturbing," said Kate Michelman, the former president of Naral Pro-Choice America and a witness against Mr. Alito at the confirmation hearings.
"Since the last election there seems to be less comfort, if you will, or less willingness to be very forthright or strong on a woman's right to choose," Ms. Michelman said in a telephone interview on Sunday. "It is worrisome that there wasn't more strength behind their questioning" of Judge Alito's views on abortion.

The above is from David D. Kirkpatrick's "Alito Hearings Unsettle Some Prevailing Wisdom About the Politics of Abortion" (from this morning's New York Times) and it was in sent in by too many members to list. There's no comment from me on Kirkpatrick because this is one of those floating op-eds but obviously Michelman's comments are worth noting.

It's also worth noting (besides the fact that I think everyone with a community site, and it's true of me as well, mispelled "Diane"'s first name all last week -- I won't lose any sleep over it) that Feinstein was either the worst or the second worst in the hearings. (The community feels she was the worst.)

She seemed to do just barely enough to say, "I touched my bases!" She did touch on all of her constituents concerns, she just didn't argue for them. If you cared about the environment or abortion or other issues (or all), expect the announcement in the mail of how she asked about those issues. She didn't ask any questions well -- which the mailing won't note as it hits you up for money.

It's called cover your own ass and she did that. And apparently she won't be called on her actions by too many. (Good for Michelman for saying something.)

I never need to suffer through "Miss Diane, Girl Senator" and her "I know nothing about lawyering" remarks as she embarrasses herself repeatedly (and embarrasses more than herself since she's the only woman on the committee) with "What kind of a judge do you think Judge Alito will be?" type questions that are possibly a notch below Barbara Walters asking, "If you were a tree, what sort of tree would you be?"

As with so many of her questions, they were abstract ones, the replies to which could be imagined ahead of time. Alito wiggled around every question but let's not kid that Feinstein's questions to him and on him did not come with plenty of wiggle room built in.

She compared him to Scalia (on Face the Nation, if you read the article) but doesn't think that he shouldn't be on the Court because they disagree. Since the beginning, Feinstein's gotten a lot of money from women's groups (not on the right) and always presented herself as a friend to abortion. The question some should ask now is, "That's friendship?"

The emergence of "Miss Diane, Girl Senator" ("Donna Reed had more bite" as Trina's sister-in-law noted) is a surprise because she seems to get more gauzey and soft focus with each year. Hopefully her donations will get more gauzey and soft focus as well. (Her state support is already in question and has been since she supported the war. She thinks she can "big tent" it but seems to fail to grasp the concerns of the people whose votes she needs.)

"Miss Diane, Girl Senator" (and yes, that's a mispelling of her name and no, I'm not concerned -- maybe she lost the additional "n" when she forgot how to fight?) actions call to mind Florida, 1972 for anyone who wants to remember the feelings of betrayal then. Time and energy was poured in and the plank was pulled. (Those who still have their "Make Policy Not Coffee" buttons will remember that time well.) (And possibly some of those buttons could be sent to Feinstein? Or create a new button just for her: "Come To The Commitee Table As An Equal Or Don't Bother To Show") As was noted then, we have to know our enemies. We should also know our friends and Feinstein's conduct (on the hearings and apparently on Face the Nation as well) were not the actions of a friend.

Michelman on Friday was more professional, a stronger voice, more to the point, than Feinstein at any minute in the hearings. If those were the actions of a friend, she owes a big apology and words alone won't cut it. It's not bad enough that she was ineffecutal in the hearings (that's being generous), she's now sending out the message that it's over and stop fighting it.

The Dems, after the 2004 election, used the myth of the "values voters" to run for cover (not from our money, never from our money). The party we've turned out for consistently in large numbers made a tactical decision (witness their running of Casey Junior). We need to stop mistaking that our visit to senators offices while they nod with a concerned look means we have a voice in the party. We don't. It's 1972 all over again where we'll be promised anything ahead of time and then be stabbed in the back while offered the rationalization of "That's how it had to be."

Instead of making nice, we need to make demands. This is ridiculous and Feinstein shouldn't be given a pass because she's been perceived as "a friend" (her conduct in the hearings alone should bury that notion). She has a place on the committee only because we made demands. Silencing criticism of the war in 2004 to get behind Kerry (I supported Kerry) was a mistake. It allowed him to posture as Bush-lite on the war. Silencing criticism of what went on last week would be the same mistake. It will only embolden those pushing the party to go right.

We have been taken for granted (the same way others have been but some have a hard time seeing that it's happening to us due to our large numbers) and we got screwed last week repeatedly. That includes by our "friend" Feinstein. Whether we can stop Alito or not, I honestly don't know. But at a time when so many elected officials have backed off everything the Democratic Party was supposed to stand for to the point that abortion rights were the last large difference, we can say clearly, "Want my vote? Earn it."

Feinstein was the worst. She conducted herself poorly when she was questioning. She stepped on Ted Kennedy's questioning (in a cutesy manner) when he was making strong points. She only sits on the commmittee because of the gender quake. If she can't get it together, get off the committee.

I feel like I'm screaming online here (I would apologize but the community seems to be of the same mind -- that's men and women by the way, contrary to what some "strategists" seem to think, this isn't an issue that matters "only" to women -- something they might need to consider before the next "repositioning"). We'll note Eleanor Smeal's conclusions from Friday, noted by Mindy, "Alito Hearings Day Five" (The Smeal Report, Ms. magazine):

The hearings ended with Senator Specter announcing, big surprise, he would vote for Alito. He also said he wanted the committee vote on Tuesday, January 17, with the full floor vote on January 20. Senator Leahy, the ranking Democrat, said some Senators would not be ready for the committee vote until the following Tuesday -- January 24. The bottom line is the two will decide over the weekend. Disturbingly, no matter what, the vote is coming fast -- and women's lives are on the line.
Nationwide, people are organizing. Feminist Majority Foundation students from 35 states have come to Washington, DC to volunteer. Some 200 No on Alito events were help by the coalition forces in various states this past weekend. The
National Organization for Women has brought in activists from most states. Millions of No on Alito petitions have been signed (over 1.2 million in Philadelphia alone). This is a fight. A huge number of national organizations are opposing Alito, as well as hundreds of law professors, and both the National Association of Women Lawyers and the National Bar Association (representing African-American lawyers).

Well also note this from an e-mail that ??? forwarded:

Did you catch Alito's snaky answer when asked if he thought Roe v. Wade was well settled? He said it depended on what you meant by "well settled." And they ridiculed Clinton for quibbling about the meaning of the word "is". When he says stare decisis is not an inexorable command, what he really means is Katie bar the door to the Supreme Court.
He doesn't always rule against the "little guy" he said at this hearing. And he gave as his primary example the machine gun case. Oh swell . . . if you are a little guy with a machine gun you can get a fair shake in judge Alito's courtroom.
On issue after issue he refused to comment, on the grounds that it might come before him. MIGHT come before him? Of course these issues will come before him. That's the whole plan, to systematically revisit every one of these decisions and roll them back one century at a time. The members of the Federalist society have been plotting this judicial coup since their mentor Bork was rejected for admitting his extremism. Since then they have been packing the courts with true believers who refuse to disclose their agendas, accelerated by the Bush neocon cabal. And Alito is the last piece of the puzzle they need to fall into place, WITHOUT WHICH THEY CANNOT PROCEED.
That is why it is so critical. That is why you must speak out again now. That is why you must submit this action page now.
That is why you must ignore even now the voices on our own side who have been conned into parroting the right wing line that this is a foregone conclusion. Our senators did not have the burden of proof to stop Alito. It was his burden of proof to earn the position with straight forward and honest answers to the American people about what he stood for. The Federalist society knows EXACTLY what he stands for. They dropkicked Miers because they weren't 100% sure about her. It is the American people they are so desperately trying to keep in the dark.
This one is a ringer. You don't run with the wolf pack for so many decades without being a wolf. But they could not nominate a wolf without outfitting him with the sheep's clothing of "I'd have to carefully examine the facts of the case." They played up a weepy wife to trivialize the monumental danger this man represents as the fifth and deciding vote to overturn absolutely everything we ever cared about. And his supporters admit it even if he will not. Yeah, sure they say, that's what they want, to roll to clock back to the mid-thirties for starters and work backwards from there.
One of the most pathetic reasons we've ever heard for inaction is that they'll just nominate somebody as bad if Alito is rejected. What kind of defeatism is that? C'mon folks, snap out of it. No, not only are we going to turn thumbs down on Alito, but the next one, and the next one, until we get a true moderate at the very worse. That is what the American people deserve, if only you will demand it by calling your senators right now at one of the toll free numbers. There are three we know of, 888-818-6641, 888-355-3588, 800-426-8073.
Tell them if they do not filibuster Alito their own jobs are in jeopardy. Those who will not exercise the power they have will have whatever power they do have taken away from them. The OTHER side will do that if we do not do it first. Hold a press conference and declare your opposition and willingness to run in the primary of any state where such a senator dwells. You won't have to worry about raising money. You will be drafted so fast it will make your head spin.
Please take action NOW, so we can win all victories that are supposed to be ours, and forward this message to everyone else you know.
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In relation to the DLC spin Ad Nags presented as fact yesterday, Stan steers us to Flavia Colgan's "Alito Hearings Drowning in Words" (In These Times):

This was pretty much the norm for most of the week among the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee. They would make statements, Alito would nod and say, "Mmm-hmmm" every 30 seconds or so, and then give a quick and non-substantive answer. Who could really blame him, knowing that the senator doing the questioning wouldn't focus on the lack of substance, preferring instead to go off on a rambling, semi-coherent rant?
The behavior of the Democrats on the committee was an odd strategy, given that, before the hearings, Democratic senators had stressed the need to hear detailed and specific answers on a number of issues, while strategists stressed that the Democrats' best chance at sinking the nomination was getting Judge Alito to hang himself with his own words.
Post-hearing reaction from the Democrats was only marginally better. People for the American Way, in particular, sent out detailed critiques of the judge's answers every day, providing reporters covering the hearings with tons of good information.
But this was outweighed by Democratic Senate staff whispering to the press that the Alito juggernaut was unstoppable. Is there any better way to dampen grassroots opposition than by saying their efforts are all for naught?
I was at the hearings, trying to judge everything for myself. I can say that, by Thursday, Senate Democrats seemed to realize the flaws in their strategy.
They began to ask Judge Alito more probing questions about two of the most controversial issues he faces--his opinions on executive power and his membership in CAP--or more acurately stated, his poor judgment in highlighting that membership on a job application for what I can only surmise were political reasons.
But by then, it was too little, too late. Most of the public that could have been interested in weighing these issues had tuned out because of the air of inevitability that Democrats had fostered--or they were turned off by the Kabuki theater of the previous days. In the hearing room, when Democrats weren't posing Judge Alito tough questions, they were giving him judicial advice, bolstering the feeling that this was a done deal.

Democracy Now! today:

* To celebrate Rev. Martin Luther King Day, we bring you two of his major speeches: "Beyond Vietnam" at Riverside Church in New York on April 4, 1967 and "I Have Been to the Mountain Top" in Memphis on April 3, 1968.

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