What a wonderful thing for our democracy that the Democrats sitting on the Judiciary Committee questioning Judge Alito are nothing if not consistent – as in consistently boorish.
I realize that in tearing down society, liberals have had to attack the very idea of good manners and what they represent. The conventions that place strictures on impolite or rude behavior had to be destroyed if liberals were ever going to get anywhere politically. Hence, shouting down people you disagree with or throwing a pie in a conservative’s face is considered heroic rather than the act of a barbarous lout. Just think how different our political climate would be today if every time we turned around liberals weren’t calling conservatives “racists” for disagreeing with some nonsensical public policy position taken by the NAACP or “Nazi” for…well, being a conservative, I guess.
There are very good reasons for saying “please” and “thank you” not to mention all the societal conventions that most of us learned as we grew up. Politeness, empathy (for individual human beings, not just “protected” political groups), deference to age and gender, as well as the formalized dance of words and gestures that occurs when two strangers meet are all means to grease the wheels of intercourse. Without them, misunderstandings would very quickly degenerate into conflict, a state of affairs not conducive to the smooth running of society not to mention the health and safety of its individual members.
The performance of many Senate Democrats on the Judiciary Committee during the Alito confirmation hearings has been a shocking display of self-aggrandizing, mean-spirited, boorish and ill mannered behavior not seen since the impeachment hearings during the Clinton era. Then it was some Republican Congressmen who were so desperate to advance their cause that they allowed loutish behavior to substitute for reasoned discourse. In the case of Senate Democrats, they don’t even have the excuse that they are arguing weighty issues vital to the republic. Instead, their attacks have centered on peripheral matters like Alito’s membership in the conservative Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP) which, depending on what you read, either was for “excluding” women and minorities or “limiting” their enrollment at the prestigious Ivy League university.
Either way, one wonders why if the Democrats are so concerned about Alito’s nominal membership in a group that sought to exclude minorities they haven’t taken their own Senate Leader Robert Byrd to task for belonging to an organization – the KKK - that sought to lynch them.
And if the Democrats are going to drag out 25 year old articles from The Prospect and (God help us!) the National Review maybe we should dig into some back issues of Ramparts or other lefty “alternative” news digests that called for the violent overthrow of the United States government. I daresay John Kerry would probably have a few anxious moments if someone threw that in his face.
Since the Democrats cannot attack Alito’s qualifications for Associate Justice, they are trying to browbeat the nominee by being as rude and overbearing as the rules permit. By calling into question his character, they are attacking the confirmation process itself. The more scurrilous and unprincipled charges they can cast about, the more headlines they get. Today’s media stories are not about anything Alito stands for or his impartiality but rather the baseless charges being tossed around by Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden, Charles Shumer and the rest of the Democratic attack dogs who have given up trying to defeat the nominee and instead now seek to undermine any legitimacy he has with the American people.
The tactic worked quite well with Justice Clarence Thomas who to this day causes many women to go into fits of anger at the very mention of his name. It remains to be seen how well it will work with the mild mannered and self effacing Alito who has proven himself much more the gentleman than his craven interlocutors.
It is perhaps horribly old fashioned to use the words “gentlemen” and “Senator” in the same sentence. After all, being a gentleman used to mean exhibiting a certain reserve, a deference to all, low born and high. There was a responsibility to show respect for another’s point of view and empathy for another’s feelings that many of these Senate Democrats have refused to acknowledge. Yes politics is a contact sport. And if this was a hearing for a new Defense Secretary or Attorney General, some of the behavior exhibited by opposition Senators could be if not excused, at least understood in the context of political combat.
But judges should be, if nothing else, above politics. Do what you wish with the actual confirmation vote in the Senate. Play politics all you want when politics is called for. But when trying to ascertain the qualifications and temperament of a Supreme Court nominee, politics should be left behind. With a few notable exceptions (not surprisingly, with liberals shattering precedent in the Bork and Thomas hearings) confirmation hearings have been pro forma affairs where even opposition Senators were constrained from attacking a nominee’s character. The Ruth Bader Ginsburg hearing was a good example as Republican Senators tried without much success to get Ms. Bader-Ginsburg to reveal just how liberal she really was. To the country’s detriment, we didn’t find out until she was confirmed.
There is no such problem with Alito. With more than 300 written decisions to look at, the record is clear. He is a conservative through and through. And the fact that the Democrats seem more than a little perturbed that Judge Alito would not be against revisiting Roe v. Wade or that he actually believes we are presently at war and that a somewhat more expansive view of executive power may be justified – with proper oversight – only reveals the opposition for what they are; a pack of boorish louts.
There is no doubt that Judge Alito will receive a majority of votes from the Judiciary Committee and be sent to the floor where he will almost certainly be confirmed with ease. The question then becomes what the Democrats on the Committee hope to accomplish with their mud slinging. The answer lies with their rabid base who demands blood on the floor. Like spoiled, rotten children, the denizens of the far left fever swamps are throwing a tantrum because they can’t defeat the Alito nomination. Failing that, they are demanding that the committee Democrats tarnish the image and good name of the judge.
It’s all they have left to look forward to in this fight. And if it means attacking the character of a good and decent man to the point that his wife weeps in gratitude when a Republican Senator defends him, then so be it.