Saturday, January 14, 2006

Reactions to the week long meeting of the Alito fan club (aka the hearings)

We'll be flashing back a little in this entry, to the week almost over. My comments below can be read as summarizing the views of members who didn't give permission to be quoted. (They can also be seen as my own views; however, were it not for the e-mails on this topic, I wouldn't be writing this entry until Monday.) With the exception of Joey wondering that "[p]erhaps this was the best the Democrats were capable of," no member who weighed in was even mildly impressed with the performance of Democrats this week.

First we'll zoom in on Bill Scher's "More Holes In Alito's Stories" (Liberal Oasis):

As if the ROTC story about his membership in Concerned Alumni of Princeton (see below) wasn't thin enough, turns out that ROTC had already been brought back to Princeton the same year Alito became an alumni.

The above was noted by Billy. In a number of e-mails, members express anger and disbelief over the Senate Dems lack of response to the ROTC issue.

If you followed the Alito fan club meeting this week (if you did, hopefully you followed them via
Pacifica -- which provided live "gavel to gavel" coverage), you heard about CAP. If you didn't, CAP was "all in up Alan Bloom's bloomers." (Credit that to Ty who came up with it on the phone tonight.) This was an alumni org for Princeton that existed to whine about the loss of "cultural standards" which, as most people know, is usually a term used as code for a more inclusive approach.

For CAP, standards were decaying due to the Princeton's willingness to admit people of color (CAP focused its outcry at African-Americans) and women. And like most little Bullies, they also went after gays and lesbians. The "standards" have nothing to do with any standard other than preventing equal opportunity and equal access.

That a would be Supreme Court judge joined an organization opposed to equal opportunity and equal acess should scare the hell out of everyone.

This organization was important enough to Alito to list it on a resume for the Justice Department (Reagan administration). It was one of two orgs he listed. Here's Carol Leif on Alito's dance of distortion during the hearings (at Zach's request), from "Membership Has Its Privileges" (The Leif Report, Ms. Magazine):

No, you can't use the excuse that you forget being a member. That's lame. What? Now you remember it so well that you know you weren't a very active member and you didn't donate a lot of money to your club. Um, but you were a member, right? In the phrases "active member" and "big donor member," the key word is member. If you were a member of the KKK, do you think it would matter how active you were? Did anyone care how active Michael Dukakis was in the ACLU? Incidentally, being a member of the ACLU might not be so bad in this particular hypothetical job, but I digress. It doesn't even matter because it would take a pretty silly group of people to focus on the minutae of your club activity and miss the big picture of your club membership.
No, you can't compare this to McCarthyism. Join any club you want, just don't apply for this job. Nice attempt to shift focus though.

He can't recall why he listed it on a job application in 1985. He can't recall any participation in the organization, he says, so he must not have been very active in it. But what can he recall?

He joined because the ROTC was being mistreated by Princeton. The Democrats have gotten so scared of the war issue (Iraq) that they let that fly all week. All week, Alito was able to falsely claim that the ROTC was being mistreated by Princeton. As Bill Scher points out, they were back on campus when Alito joined.

Now of course a chicken hawk administration would nominate a chicken hawk judge. Alito didn't go to Vietnam, Alito didn't oppose Vietnam. Alito hid out in ROTC. Apparently we're not to question his "service" which, no doubt, included many brave manuevers that kept New Jersey "safe" from Viet Cong.

Alito joined the ROTC in 1970 because he was "worried that he might be drafted for the Vietnam War and, if so, determined to go as an officer, college classmates said" ("Alito Joined ROTC While at Princeton," Washington Post). Those who knew him (ibid) said he wasn't interested in the war (not enough to discuss it or have an opinion on it).

But in the week long fan club meeting, he was able to hide behind the ROTC whenever he was pressed on CAP. Since he is a judge and is attempting to be a Supreme Court Justice, he should have been asked to explain his position.

No, not repeat his ROTC nonsense. But since he repeatedly claimed offense at the way the ROTC was viewed by some on campus, he should have been asked to explain why they might feel that way? Friday, in a testimonial, we heard that he went to great lengths as a judge to attempt to figure out a court case from all angles. Does he do that?

A judge should. (It's kind of like expecting that the person at the drive thru window will remember to put the catsup packets in your sack.)

So why not test that out while he was present?

"You keep referring to opposition towards the ROTC. Could you explain what these people were opposed to?"

In the early seventies, the apathetic Alito used the ROTC to hide in and avoid serving in Vietnam. This week, he used the ROTC to hide behind. He's gotten a great deal of mileage out of the ROTC.

In today's climate, Dems are apparently as caught up in myth as everyone else. Alito didn't want to go into specifics on the ROTC and he wasn't forced into doing so. The position of not wanting the ROTC on campus wasn't a minority position in the final years of Vietnam. Regardless of where the baby boomers are today, a large portion of them then held an opposite view to the one Alito expressed in the hearings (one that apparently wasn't expressed while he was at Princeton).

If he'd been pressed to explain why there was opposition, he might have been able to demonstrate that he can look at an issue from various angles. (Doubtful but it could happen.) Or he might have provided the sort of right-wing thought he now believes in and, as a result, angered a large segment of baby boomers.

A number of e-mails came in on this (with several members citing episodes of The Simpsons, believe it or not). Why was Alito allowed to say, "I joined CAP because some people were mean to the ROTC" without ever being forced to expand on that?

Mia, noting that military recruitment on campus has become a large issue to students and parents once again, feels that the Dems missed an opportunity to score some points. Her argument is that Alito was able, at the hearings, to hide in the ROTC and end the conversation there. But objections to the ROTC were about a program, not about a person. "Why wasn't he probed on that?" Mia wondered.

Brady points out that "Bully Boy's so distorted 'service' that now joining a campus program to avoid a war is seen as 'noble.'"

Lindsay notes she is in her senior year (high school) and bothered by recruiters "constantly." Her father is "sick of them calling," her mother "feels like if we weren't struggling to figure out how to pay for college, they [recruiters] wouldn't be targeting me." As they discussed the hearings each night, Lindsay's parents repeatedly questioned Alito hiding behind the ROTC and the Dems letting him do so.

Susan notes that her college days coincide with Alito's and that "serious issues were left unstated. This wasn't a case of someone joining the national guard, this was a case of the ROTC."

Susan: He should have been pressed on this issue. This wasn't about one region of the country. The University of Nebraska had their ROTC headquarters occupied by student protesters. While the Republicans want to refight the 'cultural wars' that brought about a more equal society, the Democrats seem to wish that they would just go away. You saw that in the reluctance on the part of the senators to really address the issues of "one person, one vote" and other advances in civil rights which was a tiny sidebar until witnesses were brought in on Friday.
As they attempt to turn back the clock on civil rights, abortion, privacy and personal liberties, the right cloaks the effort in talk of "tradition" and the Democrats did a lousy job of explaining the issues and the history that led to so many in this country supporting the changes that brought more democracy to our nation. I was disappointed more often that not as I listened to the hearings.

Erika writes that she found Diane Feinstein embarrassing "day after day" and feels that Rebecca's entry on the "Miss Diane, Girl Senator" non-action figure was "apt."

Erika: I don't feel a thing has changed since Anita Hill stood before the committee. Hearing girly-girl Feinstein titter and stroke was embarrassing to this feminist. If she can't conduct herself in a professional manner, step down from the committee. I don't believe that her serving on it aids women in the least. The patronizing attitudes evidenced towards Hill seem to have been replaced with a complacency now that Feinstein's on the committee as she provides the cover for everyone to say, "See, we have improved." Feinstein is no improvement.

KeShawn wondered why the Democrats were unable to connect topics?

KeShawn: This wasn't about an issue here and an issue there. Alito represents an assault on freedom. The right to abortion, civil rights, the right and expectation to be free from the government spying you, the right of a system founded upon and practicing checks and balances, it was all about rights. Our rights should have been stressed as the theme. Each questioning should have opened with each senator saying, "Okay, to get back to the concern over your dismissal of the rights of citizens" and from there they should have probed the various issues.
They should have asked questions in that manner as well. "Judge Samuel Alito, you do understand why people are troubled by your views on rights?" That should have been hammered home. The attacks on minorities are not about him not liking women or him not like people of color or gays and lesbians, this is about him not liking a system, not supporting one, where we are all equal. The cases that were brought up showed a similar pattern of him siding against the rights of citizens. This should have been something that eachDemocratic senator began and ended with.

Gupta expressed similar thoughts.

Gupta: This is supposed to be the country that allows equal opportunity and no one wanted to address that. Do gays and lesbians have a right to employment? Of course they do. Instead of attempting to show 'I care' they [Democratic senators] should have been starting off with, "I find it really sad that I have to ask a question like this because in America, it shouldn't even be an issue." That would have shown how dangerous Alito was. He is dangerous. They let him dance around everything but they didn't even word their questions so that most listeners would get how dangerous. The Republicans would have called foul but they were already attacking the Democrats anyway so that shouldn't have been a concern. Alito's dangerous and that message should have been hammered hom with each and every question.

Doug thinks that the Democrats once again "pinned their hopes on the press riding in on a white stallion to save the day. They suffer from too many rescue fantasies that they should have given up on a long time ago. The press isn't worried about making their argument for them."

Julie noted that she felt like Cedric: "Disappointing and Disappointed."

Sabina feels that Democrats on the Judiciary Committee "need to work together" and that this didn't happen. "No senator should have to say 'I hope someone else will pick up on this in their questioning.' The Republicans used talking points over and over. The Democrats didn't have to do that but they did have to be aware of what the others were planning to question on. They seemed unprepared and scattered."

Brandon felt there were problems online.

Brandon: I don't take James Carville seriously and I don't take the cheerleaders online seriously. The Democrats did a lousy job in these hearings. Can the grassroots stop the nomination? Maybe. But it won't come about with "I think Biden made a good point today when he said . . ." type of criticism. A lot of online critics seem to have studied under Mark Shields and they draw their own independence and critical capabilities into question when they prop up one of the most embarrassing performances by the Democrats. This was a group that looked like it was the fourth quarter and they were just now realizing they needed a play book.

Dominick noted a point Elaine made about the need for the Democrats to demonstrate, ahead of the 2006 elections, that they know how to fight. (Dominick didn't provide a link or cite this. I know Elaine made the point in roundtables for the gina & krista round-robin. Online, she made it in this entry and possibly elsewhere at her site as well.)

Dominick: It's like expecting me to make a wager on a fighter I've never seen box. You're asking people to make a real leap of faith. Democrats need to demonstrate what they can do and, thus far, they haven't demonstrated that they know how to fight effectively.

End Zone found the questioning "disjointed" and believes that until the Democratic Party starts listening to the base "and not the press" that "the best that they can hope for is a few kind editorials that won't make a difference on any election day."

Marcia was especially critical of Diane Feinstein (and praised Kat's commentaries).

Marcia: My rights cannot be defended by anyone acting like they're the hostess at TGIF. "oooh Diane's for the environment!" Why should I care when she can't stop apologizing for each questions she's about to ask?

Melinda praised Wally for including so many of Isaiah's comics this week and was bothered that I hadn't done the same. That's a good point. I was rushing in the morning and know of no archive for Isaiah's more recent work (Rebecca did one this summer, per-Alito and pre-Roberts). Wally hunted those down on his own and knows Isaiah's work better than Isaiah does (a point made this week). Wally did a better job of providing visuals this week than I did, Melinda's correct.

Charlie e-mailed to note thanks and appreciation to Gina and Krista for all their hard work on the daily special editions of the gina & krista round-robin. Charlie also cited this entry by Mike as worthy of note.

(Agreed and, again, think everyone did strong work this week.)

Charlie's one of the members who's stayed active even in disappointment and he credits the attention from the community (that's sites, the round-robin and highlights by members) for keeping us all focused.

We'll start wrapping this entry up. If you noted something but didn't note permission to quote you, hopefully, there's some representation of your views in the members noted here or in the bits and pieces I wrote in this entry. If that's not the case and you want to be quoted, please e-mail to let me know.

As I noted near the top, the ROTC issue was one that came up repeatedly. Kyle wrote to express his frustrations over the Democrats not attempting to make Alito explain those comments. He also asked that we note an entry here from December 28th. We'll close with that entry, "Hypocrisy in Recruiting:"

At some military bases, commanders will not even allow police recruiters on the grounds, for fear that they will steal troops who might otherwise re-enlist, said Lt. Mike Barletta of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.

The above is from Timothy Egan's "Police Forces, Their Ranks Thin, Offer Bonuses, Bounties and More" in this morning's New York Times and Jim asked me if I would give that section its own entry to make sure everyone caught it.

In case anyone missed the hypocrisy of not allowing police recruiters on military bases, we'll note this from Democracy Now! (December 7, 2005):

Case Challenges Recruiting Access for Military on Campus
And the Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a case that challenges military recruiting on campus. A coalition of over 160 law schools is contesting the 1996 Solomon Amendment, which allows the government to deny financial support to any university that does not give military recruiters the same access to students it gives to other employers. The law schools are arguing they should only have to grant the military equal access when the military allows equal access to openly-gay recruits. The Supreme Court is widely expected to rule in favor of the Solomon amendment. Chief Justice John Roberts appeared to defend it during the proceedings, saying: "It says that if you want our money, you have to let our recruiters on campus."

Who pays for the military? We do. So if the military wants our money, by the logic of John Roberts and the government, then they really shouldn't be able to refuse police departments the right to recruit on bases. Or they could just drop the case and their attempts to bully law schools.

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