Thursday, January 12, 2006

"Senators Likey the Blah-Blah."

That was what satirist-in-Chief Jon Stewart had to say about the Roberts hearings, and it's holding true about the Alito hearings as well. Anti-Alito advocates are thoroughly disappointed with the Democrats' performances, and with good reason. Pro-Alito forces are exultant, and why shouldn't they be because it looks like the man will make it easily. If anything, Senators, especially Democratic Senators, are proving their ability to lose every fight their mouth gets them in. First, there's this brilliant observation from Dahlia Lithwick:

It spirals ever downward: "I'm tough!" "I'm bad!" "I'll cut you, man!" And as the two senators trade threats, expressions of feigned outrage, and promises of dire consequences, the real problem with this whole confirmation process becomes clear: It's a battle of the world's largest egos. There is only one product they're trying to move in this four-day infomercial and that product is senators. Senators! Get your red-hot senators! This proceeding is nothing more than Senate QVC. People of Pennsylvania: Order an Arlen Specter and you'll have softer, smoother skin. Order a Ted Kennedy and equal justice under the law can be yours in minutes! Hurry and order a Tom Coburn in the next 15 minutes, and we'll throw in a free stethoscope, Bible, and glow-in-the-dark ear thermometer.

This is no more a judicial confirmation hearing than O.J. Simpson's was a criminal trial.

Ego is such a problem with these guys that they're more interested in making themselves look good and sounding smart than actually having a coherent strategy and making good points. They're all style (and bad style) and no substance, and Alito won't be stopped that way. But that's just the beginning of their problems. Anti-Alito David Corn gets it exactly right on what it would've taken to stop Alito, and how the Dems have fallen short:

After the first day of questioning, many anti-Alito advocates were disappointed in the Democrats, who failed to create a larger dynamic for the hearing. One problem: the most effective interrogators on the Democratic side have less seniority on the committee. The best hitters--Russell Feingold, Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin--come at the end of the Democratic lineup, long after the old lions--Pat Leahy, Ted Kennedy--have had their turn and have set the tone. Durbin even didn't get his swings at Alito until Day Two. By then the die was cast. Or the moment lost.

And Alito--no John Roberts Jr.--has been doing just fine. He stares at his Democratic inquisitors with an unvarying expression that might even creep them out a little. But he has not gotten flustered. He has given non-answers that often sound like answers, rather than say he would not answer a question. He comes across as dweebish, hardly threatening. Which is why the Democrats needed to make this hearing not so much about him but about larger principles. They had to do it with drama and flair. They had to do it in a way to capture the public imagination. Maybe this was too tall an order and not realistically possible. But it certainly hasn't occurred. Alito is closer to the Big Bench, and America is closer to an unrestrained conservative-tilted Court with a majority of justices hostile to abortion rights.

Again, an astute point that gets to the problem. These bloviating windbags care so much about the sound of their own voice the concoction of a coherent strategy is impossible. Alito has also been so prepared and has responded so well that all of these attacks have been parried before they can stick. It's too late. But, as usual, John Cole cuts straight to the point during a spirited Drudge-fisking:

I don’t like Kennedy. At all. I think Schumer is a grandstanding fool and a pompous ass. I think Patrick Leahy is as partisan as they get, and not to be trusted.

Nuff said. Alito could've been stopped. He's a right-wing statist who loves unaccountable government power, especially in the hands of the President, more than just about anyone. That could've been an issue that genuinely disturbed people, but as usual we get abortion hysteria and a parade of identity politics tomfoolery. Should Alito be the nightmare most liberals think he is, they have the complete and utter ineffectiveness of the Senate Democrats to thank when he makes it to the bench.

The more I think about issues like this, the more I think term-limits need to be brought back. And the more I think that the healthiest course of action for America in the mid-term elections isn't a partisan one, but goes a little like this: don't vote for a single incumbent. That's right, vote against all incumbents on the upcoming ticket. That would send the greatest message we can Congress.