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Even Before Alito Hearings, the Verdicts Are In

On Alito, they say, he deserves confirmation,

But don't wait for hearings, just accept coronation.

The committee members were busily promoting an appearance of open-mindedness yesterday.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), hosting a morning roundtable with reporters, had nothing nice to say about Alito. "We here in the United States are not going to stand for monarchial tyranny," he said, protesting Alito's support for "unfettered, unlimited power of the executive." He faulted Alito for belonging to a group that was "anti-black and also anti-women." Kennedy wondered if "the average person is going to be able to get a fair shake" under Alito.

Briefly, Kennedy rewrote the outcome of the 1964 election. "This nominee was influenced by the Goldwater presidency," he said. "The Goldwater battles of those times were the battles against the civil rights laws." Only then did Kennedy acknowledge that "Judge Alito at that time was 14 years old."

A questioner pointed out that Kennedy sounded like a sure bet against Alito. "I haven't reached a final conclusion," the senator demurred.

Next up: Schumer, who gave an afternoon speech to the liberal Center for American Progress. Schumer argued that Alito articulated "a radical theory of executive power" under which "we couldn't have a 9/11 commission." He further mentioned the judge's "extreme views" and said one of his arguments "can't be taken seriously by any serious person." The senator judged that Alito "is in worse shape today than the day he was nominated."

So is that a "no" vote? "No," Schumer said. "We want to hear his views."

Cornyn hosted a conference call to counter the Democrats' unofficial opposition to Alito with his unofficial support. Cornyn said that Alito is "solidly within the judicial mainstream" and that attacks on him are "specious and far-fetched." This followed Cornyn's earlier descriptions of Alito as "highly qualified, extremely fair, and a man of unquestioned integrity."

Then we'll take that as a "yes" vote? Not necessarily. "Based on what I know now, I support the nomination," Cornyn said, but "there is certainly a possibility I would change my mind."

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