Monday, January 30, 2006

NYT: "In Alito, G.O.P. Reaps Harvest Planted in '82" (David D. Kirkpatrick)

Last February, as rumors swirled about the failing health of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, a team of conservative grass-roots organizers, public relations specialists and legal strategists met to prepare a battle plan to ensure any vacancies were filled by like-minded jurists.
The team recruited conservative lawyers to study the records of 18 potential nominees -- including Judges John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel A. Alito Jr. -- and trained more than three dozen lawyers across the country to respond to news reports on the president's eventual pick.
"We boxed them in," one lawyer present during the strategy meetings said with pride in an interview over the weekend.

[. . .]
Judge Alito's confirmation is also the culmination of a disciplined campaign begun by the Reagan administration to seed the lower federal judiciary with like-minded jurists who could reorient the federal courts toward a view of the Constitution much closer to its 18th-century authors' intent, including a much less expansive view of its application to individual rights and federal power. It was a philosophy promulgated by Edwin Meese III, attorney general in the Reagan administration, that became the gospel of the Federalist Society and the nascent conservative legal movement.

The above is from David D. Kirkpatrick's lengthy "In Alito, G.O.P. Reaps Harvest Planted in '82" in this morning's New York Times. Kirkpatrick touches on many things including the two-part strategy:

1) "extol the nonpartisan legal credentials of the nominee, steering the debate away from the nominee's possible influence over hot-button issues"
2) "attack the liberal groups they expected to oppose any Bush nominee"

Now what's required for such a strategy to work? How about a lazy and inept press, one less willing to do their job and more intent upon turning the issues involved into a simple horse race?
The closest we get to that reality is this:

His supporters deluged news organizations with phone calls, press releases and lawyers to interview, all noting that on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Judge Alito had voted to uphold and to strike down abortion restrictions.

That's it, in this lengthy article, in terms of the press. But that's not quite reality. Outside of the editorial and op-ed pages, the Times has never bothered to seriously address the issues of Alito's record. If Alito's confirmed today (as Bill Frist wants), part of that credit will go to a lazy press that didn't have the stomach/guts to seriously address the nominee's record but instead hid behind others for comments. They have people at the Times qualified to evaluate a judge's record. They failed to use those qualifications. They failed to make a case and coming out after the hearings with a strong editorial (two, I believe) doesn't change the fact that the paper did a lousy job on informing the public about this nominee. Kirkpatrick's article gives you an "insider's look" at how the nomination battle was fought but forgets to seriously address the most important vehicle for the fight, the press that stood on the sidelines and reduced coverage to handicapping the odds.

From NOW:

Support the Filibuster! Defeat Alito!
They said a filibuster would never happen.
You proved them wrong.
Now they say we don't have enough votes.
Let's prove them wrong again.
We have until Monday at 4:30pm to convince other senatorsto join Kerry and Kennedy's filibuster of Samuel Alito.
The clock is ticking...
Call the Senate NOW!

Zach notes Robert Parry's "Alito Filibuster & Word Games" (Consortium News):

At, we often criticize the Bush administration for its Orwellian language -- "torture" and "democracy" being just two abused words -- so we must note how Senate Democratic leaders slid into their own dissembling while trying to defuse rank-and-file demands for a filibuster of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito.
The Democratic leaders tried to sound tough and principled when they were really acting soft and manipulative. For instance, they urged Democrats to cast a "strategic vote" on Alito's nomination as well as calling on senators to "vote their conscience" -- but neither phrase meant what it purported to mean.
The so-called "strategic vote" on Alito amounted to Democrats conceding defeat on his nomination but then having most Democrats vote against him. That supposedly would permit Democrats to say "I told you so" when the negative consequences of Alito's confirmation become apparent to the American people.
But that sort of ineffectual opposition is less "strategic" than it is "symbolic." It amounts to surrendering to George W. Bush and the Republicans, even when important constitutional issues are at stake, and then briefly showing the flag to appease an angry Democratic base. It's "strategic" like Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox was.
The other phrase -- "vote their conscience" -- actually was a signal to Democratic senators facing reelection campaigns in pro-Bush "Red States" to cross over to the Republican side on the Alito nomination in order to gain some political protection.
So instead of challenging Alito on principle -- because he's a legal theorist for the Imperial Presidency and believes that a "unitary executive" should rule the nation almost by fiat -- the "Red State" Democrats would "vote their conscience" by making a crass calculation and succumbing to political pressure.
In other words, "conscience" was used as a euphemism for "expediency."

Need a reason to put your energy into contacting your senators one more time on this? Read The Third Estate Sunday Review's "Editorial: Will the Dems Stand Up or Stab Us in the Back?" because we do need to know where our so-called leaders stand.

The e-mail address for this site is