I figured we were in for a Supreme battle when Chuck Schumer put out a statement slamming Samuel Alito's nomination even before it was announced.
And when the cable networks kept mentioning the judge's nickname -- "Scalito," as in he'll-rule-like-you-know-who -- it's clear the battle lines have been drawn.
One thing we won't be hearing about is qualifications, since Alito is a former prosecutor who's actually argued before the Supreme Court and has been a judge for 15 years. In fact, when President Bush was introducing him, I kept thinking about the stark contrast with Harriet Miers. The president didn't have to strain by saying Alito was a prominent lawyer or once led a Boy Scout troop or something.
So the showdown will turn on ideology, not competence, and the crazy-quilt alliances of the Miers debacle are now back to normal. Conservatives and their pundit wing are ecstatic, and liberals and their commentariat are unhappy, which is basically what you'd expect in the fight over a Bush nominee. The right's machine will be back in gear.
For the opening days, at least, the overwhelming focus will be on abortion, given Alito's ruling in the women-must-tell-their-husbands case.
Any mystery on the Roe front was quickly cleared up, according to the AP | http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051031/ap_on_go_su_co/bush_scotus_52:
" 'Of course he's against abortion,' his 90-year-old mother Rose told reporters at her home in Hamilton, N.J."
Didn't someone send mom the talking points??
By the way, the White House must really want to influence the day's cable coverage, or else these 8 a.m. announcements would make no sense. It wouldn't be that smart to unveil your nominee to the world when it's 5 a.m. in California -- unless your point is not for people to watch the actual events but for sound bites and talking points to echo throughout the day.
The MSM insta-consensus is that, regardless of what happens, this was a good fight for Bush to pick.
Todd Purdum | http://nytimes.com/2005/10/31/politics/politicsspecial1/31cnd-assess.html?hp&ex=1130821200&en=92c9d7a4a65fb4f8&ei=5094&partner=homepage in the NYT: "The nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court has given President Bush's conservative backers and liberal opponents just the battle they wanted. And it has given Mr. Bush - battered but not broken by a range of other troubles - a fight that he and the White House believe they can hardly help but win, beginning by changing the subject in Washington.
"Having gambled that he could avoid all-out warfare with his failed nomination of Harriet Miers, whom some Democrats urged him to consider then let twist in the wind as conservatives savaged her as under qualified and ideologically suspect, Mr. Bush has now reverted to form with a nominee whose rock-solid academic credentials, long judicial experience and clear-cut conservative views had put him on the president's short list (and some Democrats' blacklist) all along."
Ron Brownstein | http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-103105assess_lat,0,1358226.story?coll=la-home-headlines in the LAT: "With his nomination of Samuel A. Alito Jr., President Bush has offered the clear-cut choice about the Supreme Court's direction that activists on the right have been expecting -- and even demanding -- throughout his presidency.
"Activists on both sides believe the selection of Alito, a federal appellate judge with a staunchly conservative record, to replace moderate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor could crystallize the debate over issues such as abortion, civil rights and the court's overall role in society more sharply than any court nomination since President George H.W. Bush picked Clarence Thomas in 1991 . . .
"For all the fervor they instantly displayed, Alito's opponents face the challenge of generating significant public resistance to a nominee whose legal credentials are unquestioned. That hurdle proved far greater than Democrats expected during the confirmation of Roberts as chief justice in September."
Rick Klein | http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2005/11/01/this_time_traditional_party_line_fight_is_on/ in the Boston Globe: "Mollified conservative voices within the Republican Party, with no hint of the backlash that sank the nomination of Harriet E. Miers."
Edward Epstein | http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/11/01/ALITO.TMP in the San Francisco Chronicle: "Delighted his conservative base, infuriated liberal Democrats and set the stage for a bruising Senate battle."
Charles Babington | http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/31/AR2005103100864.html?nav=hcmodule in The Washington Post: "Senate Democrats will lead the opposition to Samuel A. Alito Jr.'s Supreme Court nomination, but a handful of Republican moderates could ultimately decide its outcome."
The Wall Street Journal also bows to the Gang of 14: "Fate of Mr. Bush's latest choice for the bench will probably be determined by a small bipartisan group of senators who can make or break any Democratic attempt to block a vote on the nomination."
Slate's John Dickerson | http://www.slate.com/id/2129101/nav/tap1/: "The White House has picked a candidate the conservatives in the green room love. Right-wingers in the real world will like Alito, too. And only the pickiest of pundits will note that Bush has zigzagged wildly in his selection criteria. Gone are the bows to affirmative action and judicial diversity that were central to the Miers pick. Gone are the testimonies to the nominee's religious faith. The president did not mention that Alito is a Catholic or opine about the role of religion in his life, as he did with Miers. Alito's religious affiliation was not even mentioned in the official biographical materials the White House released . . .
"Conservatives like political expediency when it's their interests that are being tended to. They may be needy these days, but they already seem to have forgiven Bush for wandering into the Miers cul-de-sac. The blast of e-mails supporting Alito as a strict constructionist was filling my inbox before breakfast. When Miers was nominated, approving testimonials started as a trickle and then stopped altogether. This time the e-mails have lots of chewy talking points, such as Alito's unanimous approval for the U.S. Court of Appeals by a Democrat-controlled judiciary committee and Senate in 1990 . . .
"After spending the last several weeks on defense, Bush will have at least two days where he gets to decide what goes on the front page."
David Frum | http://frum.nationalreview.com/, who ripped Harriet Miers two hours after she was nominated and wound up organizing a group to oppose her, is far more pleased by the new guy:
"President Bush has made a perfect pick for the Supreme Court in Samuel Alito. There may be a fight over this nomination, but it is a fight that will unite conservatives in support of the president and his fine choice. And in the end, it is a fight that conservatives will win."
Andrew Sullivan | http://www.andrewsullivan.com fears the coming Armageddon:
"He looks like a qualified candidate to me at first blush, and readers will know that my basic instinct on judicial nominees is to give the president, of whatever party, considerable lee-way in their selections. A filibuster, right now, looks way-too-extreme to me. But - even though I guess I may get my fair share of blogads in the process - the prospect of another polarizing culture war battle does not exactly encourage, does it?
"The glee with which the partisan right and left will now posture, the money that will be spent, the energies that will be expended -- it's not a very edifying spectacle for the Supreme Court. I know it's just where we are, but could we have a little less Beltway glee about it? Conservatives who live for ideological battle, whose main disappointment with Roberts was that he didn't set the stage for a big ol' left-right fight, are not conservative in any meaningful sense. They're ideologues and fanatics. Same goes, of course, for the reflexive hostility on the left. Oh well."
Americablog | http://americablog.blogspot.com/2005/10/scalito-had-major-conflict-of-interest.html questions Alito's ethics:
"Another ethically challenged Bush appointee, according to the Washington Post | http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/27/AR2005102700813.html:
"Three years ago Alito drew conflict-of-interest accusations after he upheld a lower court's dismissal of a lawsuit against the Vanguard Group. Alito had hundreds of thousands of dollars invested with the mutual fund company at the time. He denied doing anything improper but recused himself from further involvement in the case.
"Hundreds of thousands of dollars and it didn't raise ethical concerns for him. So how much did he have to have invested with Vanguard before it became a conflict-of-interest?"
The Weekly Standard's Matthew Continetti | http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/006/296kvddn.asp tackles the nickname issue:
"Where did the nickname 'Scalito' come from? It is hard to say. I searched the Lexis-Nexis database and found the first reference to 'Scalito' in the December 7, 1992 National Law Journal. 'Judge Alito is described by lawyers as exceptionally bright,' reported Joseph A. Slobodzian, 'but much more of an ideologue than most of his colleagues. It's a trait that has led some to nickname him "Scalito" after the acerbic Supreme Court Justice.' References to Alito as 'Scalito' have always been in the passive tense: 'some say,' 'has been,' 'is referred to.' No one, until now, seems to have gone on record with the name.
"They probably shouldn't. 'Scalito' is a slogan; a joke of a name that masks more than it reveals. It folds one man's record -- Alito's -- into the liberal caricature of another -- Scalia. And it reduces Alito to his ethnicity and his conservatism."
Non-judge John Roberts misspoke at the White House, says CBS's Public Eye | http://www.cbsnews.com/sections/publiceye/main500486.shtml:
"After reading some of the posted comments in response to my apology, I remain deeply troubled and wanted to take a moment to try to clear this situation up. I can assure you that in no way did I intend to use the phrase 'sloppy seconds' in either a sexual connotation or a pejorative way. Rather, I was thinking 'second choice' - or 'second best'. If Harriet Miers was the 'best person for the job' - then - where did that leave Alito? It was a poor choice of words, for which I am deeply sorry.
"Many posters seem to think that it is indicative of an 'agenda' or 'reveals my true thinking' about the White House. That is simply not the case. I goofed. And I freely admit it. The words had barely escaped my lips when I cringed and thought 'oops - that was a stupid thing to say.'"
No argument there.
It's all a plot aimed at the media, says Josh Silver | http://www.huffingtonpost.com/josh-silver/wag-the-alito-rove-is-ba_b_9870.html in the Huffington Post:
"Now, obedient newsrooms are following Alito's trail. The Libby indictments have been largely wiped from the agenda . . .
"Rove has refined this tactic to an art. No further proof is needed than a cursory scan of the lead stories at the websites of the New York Times, CNN, Fox News, The Washington Post, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal. It's all Alito all the time, relegating the 'Plamegate' story to the backbench."
Um, we're not supposed to cover a Supreme Court nomination? This was written before noon yesterday, a tad early to decide that Plamegate was over.
"Rove is the best West Wing spin doctor ever, and the 8 AM Monday Alito nomination is but a small move in a much larger, well coordinated campaign to eliminate dissenting voices from the US Media. He is carefully ensuring the dominance of giant media conglomerates that minimize investigative journalism and whose owners are ideologically aligned with the Right."
Eliminate dissenting voices? That seems not to be working out too well.
Presstitutes | http://www.presstitutes.com/presstitutes/2005/10/bush_nominates_.html also thinks we're taking a dive:
"The media will play along with the distraction game, i.e. don't expect to hear much about a major indictment in the White House."
Jack Shafer | http://www.slate.com/id/2128918/?nav=fix takes aim at the man who performed the outing, with the aid of Rove and some other source:
"Novak's endless citation of his lawyer's advice poses the question, What is his legal liability? He did nothing criminal in publishing Plame's identity, so he's not protecting himself by keeping silent. So, who is his silence protecting?
"Could it be that he's been using his 'attorney's advice' to hide the fact that he testified before the grand jury? Testimony there is secret -- unless, of course, the person who testified shares the information with the public. Matthew Cooper and Judith Miller, who were subpoenaed by the grand jury, finally gave testimony after receiving waivers from their sources. They also wrote about their testimony for their publications because the waivers put the information on the record.
"Has Novak kept mum about the case so he won't have to explain how or why he gave up his confidential sources? Or what sort of waiver he received? . . .
"Also to be resolved in Novak's forthcoming piece is his insistence in his Oct. 1, 2003, column and in television appearances that his source for the Plame information was not a 'partisan gunslinger.' As I write this, Karl Rove and Scooter Libby are regarded as the most likely sources of the leak. Campaign manager Rove by anybody's measure is a partisan gunslinger. If I were feeling charitable to Novak, I would be willing to call Libby (State Department, Department of Defense, 'former Hill staffer') just a gunslinger whose only partisanship is about protecting the administration. But I'm not feeling charitable."
Chicago Tribune columnist Phil Rosenthal | http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/columnists/chi-0510300007oct30,1,1079644.column?coll=chi-business-nav also declares: "Isn't it nearly time Novak came clean in print? What does he know? How has he come to know it? Was there a political or punitive agenda? Did he give up his sources? The whole shooting match."
ABC's Jake Tapper | http://blogs.abcnews.com/downanddirty/, who has joined the blogging ranks, sees a certain over interpretation of the indictment:
"Based on the cable talk show chatter, the partisans are out in force to make Fitzgerald's indictment of Scooter Libby something it ain't. To some Democrats this is ALL ABOUT THE WAR and clear evidence of a grand conspiracy and lies they took the nation to war and the Office of Special Plans . . . (and at this point they lose me, but somehow it has to do with oil and Bechtel and perhaps the Angela Lansbury character from The Manchurian Candidate). To some Republicans, it's nada, nothing, no big deal, just a minor charge, heya! Rove wasn't indicted so there's nothing to see here folks, nothing at all . . . "
The Bergen Record | http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjczN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk0MDUmZmdiZWw3Zjd2cWVlRUV5eTY3OTk1NzUmeXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk2, after supporting Judith Miller, now says "we've been had."
Several blogs have been bird-dogging editing changes made in the WashPost's front-page indictment story, reports Columbia Journalism Review | http://www.cjrdaily.org/archives/001970.asp.
A call for one of the players to get off the stage, from the New Republic's Jason Zengerle | http://www.tnr.com/blog/theplank:
"At the end of the day, Scooter Libby's the one who's under indictment for telling lies, not Joe Wilson. But it would be a whole lot easier to focus on Libby if Wilson would just shut up and go away. Alas, that's not going to happen. He clearly loves the attention too much. Wilson's op-ed was entitled, 'Our 27 months of hell.' A better title might have been, 'How to turn your 15 minutes into 27 months.'"
Hunter | http://www.dailykos.com at Daily Kos doesn't like the way conservatives are spinning the Libby charges:
"I'm sick of Republican pundits expressing doughy vindication that there is, according to them, only one potential felon in the White House. That's the standard, now? 'Just one felon' is fine? And it's only for a cover-up, and not the 'actual crime,' so hell, that's just dandy? That's the damn standard, nowadays?"