The Supreme Court

Why Democrats can’t stop Alito.

Democrats have thrown in the towel on Samuel Alito, said Adam Nagourney in The New York Times. Nothing, they concede, is now likely to keep the 55-year-old appellate judge off the U.S. Supreme Court. During confirmation hearings last week, Democratic senators tried to depict Alito as a rigid, possibly even bigoted, right-wing ideologue. They hammered him on his paper trail and ties to an all-male Princeton alumni group that opposed the admission of women and minorities. At one point Alito's wife, Martha-Ann, fled the proceedings in tears. Afterward, Democrats acknowledged they didn't have the votes to block Alito's confirmation through a filibuster. In fact, they see his imminent confirmation as proof that 'œthis White House could put on the bench almost any qualified candidate, even one whom Democrats consider to be ideologically out of step with the country.' Soon, when Alito replaces centrist Sandra Day O'Connor, the Supreme Court will move distinctly to the right.

It's about time, said Rich Lowry in National Review. Alito, a 'œsober, intelligent, and thoughtful' jurist, represents a badly needed correction to the liberal excesses of recent decades. During the hearings, he recalled the uprisings and chaos of his Princeton days. 'œI saw some very smart people and very privileged people behaving irresponsibly,' he said. He contrasted that with 'œthe good sense and decency of the people back in my own community.' There's a lesson in this for Democrats—if they're willing to listen, said David Brooks in The New York Times. During the 1960s, their party was hijacked by college-educated liberals obsessed with police brutality, affirmative action, nuclear disarmament, and the war in Vietnam. They succeeded only in driving working-class, 'œNorthern white ethnic voters' like Alito from their ranks in droves. The hostile questions that Sens. Ted Kennedy, Patrick Leahy, and Russ Feingold hurled at Alito last week—reeking of contempt for the police and presidential authority to combat terrorism—just prove that 'œthe Democratic Party continues to repel those voters just as vigorously as ever.'

Alito is hardly the salt of the earth, said The Nation in an editorial. In 15 years, on such diverse issues as guns, abortion, defendants' rights, school prayer, and immigration, his hard-right decisions show a disdain for individual freedoms and 'œthe interests of ordinary Americans.' He's written, for example, that the federal government has no right to impose pollution controls on corporations, or to ban the sale of machine guns. In fact, according to University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein, 'œ91 percent of Alito's dissents take positions more conservative than his colleagues'…including colleagues appointed by Presidents Bush and Reagan.' You'd never know that from the hearings, said Jeffrey Toobin in The New Yorker. Alito demonstrated the old truth that the best way to get confirmed is to artfully dodge your interrogators' questions. 'œPolitically, Alito's silence may be golden, but it is absurd that it is tolerated.'

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