Alito, Day One
Well, Day One of the Alito confirmation hearings have wrapped up with the usual developments:
•Republicans expressing their love and admiration for the greatest nominee they’ve ever seen;
•Democrats saying just enough to be nice and cautious, while waiting to see if Alito steps on the tripwire that will lead to the filibuster; and
•Alito saying, as they all do, that he doesn’t come with an agenda and has an open mind.
And all three of the above are disingenuous at best. Alito, with his overturn record, isn’t as good as the White House says. Democrats have to weigh what Alito says about no man being above the law against his previous comments in support of a unitary executive. And Alito, despite what is being said about him, does have an agenda that is well-documented. He was nominated in the post-Miers environment because he is a staunch conservative who thinks that the president should be above the law, and that individuals should be subservient to big business and Republican governments.
All that is left to see is whether anyone other than a conservative will be allowed on cable news to cover the Alito hearings, and to see whether or not something happens this week or next to make his confirmation come at the cost of the filibuster. It is not an idle comment. We live in a time with a White House that will do this country great damage if handed unbridled power by the most political Supreme Court in our history. Alito is the nominee because he will shift the balance of power far to the right of the last court on the one issue that matters most to Bush and Cheney: executive power. If Democrats are not sufficently convinced of Alito's sincerity when he says that no man is above the law, then they should risk the filibuster, even in a futile effort, to stop a man that would hand the car keys to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, and who as Robert Kuttner says, will be Bush’s enabler.
And just for fun, as John Nichols of the Nation suggests, if the Democrats want to shake things up a bit, they should ask Alito what he thinks about Bush v. Gore. But at the end of the day, as Paul Waldman of TomPaine.com says, the critical thing for progressives is to make the GOP earn their victory by exposing what the conservative takeover of the court will mean to individual rights, civil rights, and checks and balances. Even if the GOP eventually wins this, Democrats need to force the issue so that voter will know the difference between the parties next year.
And by the way, Matt Yglesias is full of crap. The party needs to fight on principle and be willing to lose. But that is lost on Beltway insiders like Yglesias. Bend over Matt, here comes the White House again. They have feasted on guys like you for five years.
Alito gives the Democrats an ideal opportunity to point out to voters in an election year what the differences are between total GOP control of the government and the country that our fathers fought for. It is far better to fight, educate, and lose, than it is to not fight at all. Let Yglesias waive the white flag and then wonder why voters next year didn't see the difference in the parties. I've had enough of that. Against the backdrop of the NSA spying mess and Bush's above-the-law presidency, the Democrats should have no problem showing voters what an Alito boot-on-the-throat would mean for their rights.