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January 15, 2006
Even The Media Gives Up On The Filibuster

Two of the most important liberal newspapers editorialize against using a filibuster on the confirmation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. The Los Angeles Times takes the opportunity to call out one specific Democratic member of Judiciary while reminding his party that elections have consequences -- and one of them is the ability to shape the federal bench:

WHO SAYS YOU DON'T LEARN much from judicial confirmation hearings? We learned an awful lot about Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) last week. He was among the senators who seemed to use more of their time lecturing instead of listening to the Supreme Court nominee, Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. ...

Alito would not have been our choice to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the court. It is understandable that, unlike now-Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., he may not win many Democratic votes. Conversely, there are no legitimate grounds to entertain a filibuster of this nominee, or to be overly shocked that he is the sort of justice Bush would select.

Bush never made any secret of his desire to put conservative jurists on the highest court, and he was elected to the presidency twice. One of the perks of the presidency, besides not having to sit through confirmation hearings, is shaping the Supreme Court. And one of the obligations of senators in the minority, after forcing a nominee to listen to them, is allowing the president's nominee an up-or-down vote.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post goes farther than the LAT, outright endorsing Alito's confirmation on the same grounds:

A Supreme Court nomination isn't a forum to refight a presidential election. The president's choice is due deference -- the same deference that Democratic senators would expect a Republican Senate to accord the well-qualified nominee of a Democratic president.

And Judge Alito is superbly qualified. His record on the bench is that of a thoughtful conservative, not a raging ideologue. He pays careful attention to the record and doesn't reach for the political outcomes he desires. His colleagues of all stripes speak highly of him. His integrity, notwithstanding efforts to smear him, remains unimpeached. ...

Supreme Court confirmations have never been free of politics, but neither has their history generally been one of party-line votes or of ideology as the determinative factor. To go down that road is to believe that there exists a Democratic law and a Republican law -- which is repugnant to the ideal of the rule of law. However one reasonably defines the "mainstream" of contemporary jurisprudence, Judge Alito's work lies within it. While we harbor some anxiety about the direction he may push the court, we would be more alarmed at the long-term implications of denying him a seat. No president should be denied the prerogative of putting a person as qualified as Judge Alito on the Supreme Court.

And while the New York Times maintains an Alito silence on its own editorial pages today, its reporting from Washington clearly shows that the Democrats have started to awaken to this political reality:

Disheartened by the administration's success with the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., Democratic leaders say that President Bush is putting an enduring conservative ideological imprint on the nation's judiciary, and that they see little hope of holding off the tide without winning back control of the Senate or the White House.

In interviews, Democrats said the lesson of the Alito hearings was that this 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.

That conclusion amounts to a repudiation of a central part of a strategy Senate Democrats settled on years ago in a private retreat where they discussed how to fight a Bush White House effort to recast the judiciary: to argue against otherwise qualified candidates by saying they would take the courts too far to the right.

All that strategy proved was that Democrats had no clue about the role of a "loyal opposition" in American politics, and that their time in the wilderness had come none too soon. Not only did both parties use federal bench appointments in three successive election cycles -- each one won by the GOP -- but obstructionists such as Tom Daschle lost their seats on that issue alone.

Elections have consequences. So does the kind of McCarthyite smear jobs the Democrats attempted this week with Alito as part of its strategy to attack George Bush by ruining the reputation of his nominee, a longtime and exemplary member of the federal bench, through baseless allegations of bigotry and misogynism. The only way that the Democrats could possibly make themselves look worse on the dawn of the 2006 election cycle would be to delay or filibuster the obviously-qualified Alito's confirmation after a week of making idiots out of themselves.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 15, 2006 12:14 PM

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