One could get pretty depressed about the state of our legislature listening to the Alito (Gosh, he sure is neato!) review now playing on a news channel near you. Having sat through our ineloquent president’s speech last week I think it is fair to say that the bar for my expectations of our senators was set pretty low. However, like some freakishly nimble limbo contestant, the gang on the Judiciary Committee not only is in the process of making it under that bar, but is doing it with room to spare.
Try not to be too disturbed by the vision of Ted Kennedy competing at limbo by the way.
In truly a non-partisan manner both sides of this debate have managed to demonstrate a lack of constitutional knowledge, intellectual rigor, and minimal preparedness that would get most people fired in the private sector. To a certain extent while not acceptable, it is understandable for the Republicans. After all, Alito is their guy so I would expect some leading questions that allow Alito to score some easy points, and the Repubs have delivered. Fair enough I suppose, but not exactly the stuff of a revolution.
As for the Dems, all I can say is these guys are as dumb as they come. I think we all can agree that without knowing Alito’s exact judicial temperament this is a critical nomination for both sides. If the man is confirmed the only question that remains will be how much the court is moved to the right, not whether it will happen. So the Democratic members of the committee had better make sure that either they can live with this guy or that they can finish him off completely. Not an easy task considering the man’s obvious qualifications and intellect.
Amazingly, the Democrats seem to be taking an ill advised third way. Instead of taking the time to prepare, and then really grilling Alito with some in depth questions and follow-ups, they’ve resorted to half baked accusations and speechifying. It’s the old Clarence Thomas playbook dusted off, and failing anew. Incredible.
Perhaps it’s their out of control egos that prevented any real coordinated attack, or maybe the ravage of too many late night Martini benders; we may never know. Were I the ranking Democratic member, I would have given each of my guys a specific area of attack, and then made them responsible for weakening the candidate. If they scored a knockout punch it would be steak for a year at Ruth’s, but at the very least I’d expect some solid body shots to wear down Alito’s defenses. Had the Democrats followed this path no one senator would have had to score a win rather, the cumulative effect over a week of several small hits might have sufficiently weakened Alito’s candidacy to bring him down.
Instead we’re now at day 3 and barring any major gaff by the judge, the Alito bandwagon is rolling down hill with the Democratic Party positioned squarely in its path. Smart Dems, as they did with Roberts, will recognize inevitability and jump on, while the more hyper-partisan will vote nay and hope for another influx of Move-On.org funding.
How did this happen? Simple. The Dems forgot that this wasn’t a campaign against Bush and instead of looking for a fair, credible airing of the candidate’s views used the time to rail against Bush or trot out bizarre accusations regarding an obscure alumni organization. We’ve heard about torture, about NSA spying and the other leftist hobby horses, but in general these have little to do with Alito’s temperament or his candidacy. Instead of pressing Alito on difficult questions of law, the Dems focused more on political questions of the day which Alito can rightly ignore. Only a fool engages in another man’s argument when it isn’t necessary, and Alito is no fool; he is perfectly happy to let the Bush Administration defend their political positions and wise enough to bat away the CAP stuff.
Oddly, the best explanation of this phenomenon came in an unrelated interview that I read this week. The Carolina Panthers, who are scheduled to play the Chicago Bears this Sunday, were asked how it was that when the two teams played in October the Bears absolutely crushed them. One of the Panthers said it was simple. “When you go out to hunt bear, you bring a bear gun. Unfortunately, we brought a switch”.
The Dems could take a lesson from these guys.