Rights going down in flames
“He’s very bright and very conservative. I think he is going to be confirmed.”
— Delaware Democrat Sen. Joe Biden, who said he was leaning toward voting against Alito
“The right wing insisted that Justice O’Connor be replaced with a sure vote for their extreme agenda.”
— Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada
“So far I have seen nothing during my interview with the nominee, the background materials that have been produced or through the committee process that I would consider a disqualifying issue against Judge Alito,”
— Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb.
I was writing a fellow blogger about this Alito mess a little while ago, and thinking aloud why it all seems so familiar and demoralizing watching Dem “outrage,” displaying utter inability to actually use what leverage they do have in the process. The filibuster was never really on the table, the questioning was pathetically impotent.
All the witty, incisive or wonky postings around the blogosphere cannot change the basic fact that once again, the Dems in these hearings decided there would not be a fight over the most lasting, significant political decision that can be made by a president. In this case, a president that was beholden to the fringe, bigoted, theocratic, right-wing element of his party — and Bush made that clear when he picked Alito.
The legacy of a Supreme Court appointment can change profoundly the most basic rights and privileges of citizens, yet these lame-ass Dems didn’t seem to take seriously that Alito is a man capable of casting votes to roll the clock back on fundamental rights and liberties. Even worse, there was a generous paper trail out there to take him out with if skillfully handled — and they didn’t know what to do with that either.
I’m not saying that the hearings were a pointless exercise, it’s just that from the questioning that I’ve seen over the last few days, I can’t say we are in the game at all — we witnessed a lot of ego stroking and an ineffective use of a forum that clearly needs better minds capable of using it properly.
I was watching Anderson Cooper 360 a couple of nights ago, and Alan Dershowitz brilliantly proposed a line of questioning that would have blown the hearings wide open. Alito early on said that his personal views have NO BEARING on how he would rule on a case, and that left the Senators with a huge opening to ask all sorts of questions about specific issues. Did they do this? Nope, it was a dog and pony show. (CNN):
DERSHOWITZ: Well, you know, if I were a senator, I’d ask them the following question. I would say, “You have said that your personal views are utterly irrelevant to how you will decide cases. We don’t agree with you on that. But since you’ve said that, let’s ask you some really hard questions about your personal views.”
“Is your mother right when she says that you personally strongly oppose a woman’s right to choose abortion? What do you personally think of gay rights? What do you personally think of affirmative action?“
He couldn’t say, “Well, I can’t give you those answers because it will come before me.” No, no, no, no. You’ve told us that your personal views are irrelevant. We think they’re relevant, so give us the answers. I think it’s a very, very hard question for him to duck.
TOOBIN: You know, Anderson, all 18 of those senators on that committee had to answer when they ran for office, “Do you think Roe v. Wade should be overturned?” Yet the one person in that room who actually has something to say about whether Roe v. Wade gets overturned doesn’t have to answer that question.
DERSHOWITZ: That’s right.
TOOBIN: And this isn’t something that is just for Republicans. Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg also ducked that question. I just think the process is messed up in a way that we, the public, and the senators don’t get the information that they need.
DERSHOWITZ: Let me give you some proof of that. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, one of the best courts in the country, and their judges, when they come out after to do an appeal, they will often say to you, “You know, we have a view on this case. Here’s what we think now. Try to talk us out of it.”
Some of the best appellate court judges tell us in advance what their views are. There is nothing inconsistent with a judge expressing his views but keeping an open mind. And they ought to demand of every nominee, Republican or Democrat, “Tell us what your current views are or what your past views were.”
Bush vs. Gore. Where were you on the night that Bush vs. Gore was announced? What did you say to your friends when the decision came down? What did you actually say? Did you write e-mails to anybody? Did you agree with the decision, not what would you do in the future?
DERSHOWITZ: Senators don’t know how to ask these hard questions.
I take it that no one working for any of the Dem Senators (or the Senators themselves) watched that program. Too bad. What I saw up there were Dem Senators in the end, just enjoying their face time on TV, pontificating, looking outraged for their constituents — they were already pre-programmed by their staffs to ask the same lame questions over and over, and left room for Alito, a man with a clear paper trail, to obfuscate so easily.
The system is broken.
Peter Daou absolutely nails the problem on the head over at HuffPost in his piece, The (Broken) Triangle: Progressive Bloggers in the Wilderness