alito’s way

Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito goes before the 18-member Senate Judiciary Committee (10 Republicans and 8 Democrats) tomorrow at noon, and it’s looking as though a great deal of the questioning will revolve around what he perceives as the limits of Presidential power. Given Alito’s previous decisions from the bench, it’s a concern of many that he might, like the President, see no problem with things like warrantless wiretaps on American citizens and the indefinite imprisonment of individuals not yet charged with crimes. Here’s a clip from NYU professor Noah Feldman’s op-ed in today’s New York Times (via Daily Kos):

Not since Watergate has the question of presidential power been as salient as it is today. The recent revelation that President George W. Bush ordered secret wiretaps in the United States without judicial approval has set off the latest round of arguments over what the president can and cannot do in the name of his office. Over the past few years, the war on terror has led to the use of executive orders to authorize renditions and the detention of enemy combatants without trial. . . .

“[P]residentialism” . . . is not the system envisioned by the framers of the Constitution. The framers meant for the legislative branch to be the most important actor in the federal government: Congress was to make the laws and the president was empowered only to execute them. The very essence of a republic was that it would be governed through a deliberative legislature, composed carefully to reflect both popular will and elite limits on that will. The framers would no sooner have been governed by a democratically elected president than by a king who got his job through royal succession…

A number of Democratic Senators have indicated this, the question of Presidential power, will guide a good deal of their questioning. And the relevance is easy to see once you look at Alito’s record. In1984, for instance, Judge Alito, then a lawyer for the Reagan administration, argued that the Attorney General should be immune from lawsuits in cases where he/she called for wiretaps without seeking authorization from the courts. Judge Alito, as many have pointed out, is not the kind of jourist to put restraints on corporate or governmental powers as they relate to individual citizens.

Fortunately, the Democrats aren’t alone on this. It seems as though several Republicans are parting ways with Bush on the issue, and none perhaps more publicly so than the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Arlen Specter. Here’s a clip from another article in today’s Times:

…On that score, Democrats will get a boost from the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who intends to hold hearings on the domestic spying program and who intends to question Judge Alito about whether Congress should have been informed.

But Mr. Specter, an ardent supporter of abortion rights, said in an interview that the spying issue will be second on his agenda; as was the case with the Roberts hearings, the chairman will raise his first questions about abortion.

“I intend to begin the hearing with the question of his 1985 statement that the Constitution does not protect the right to abortion,” Mr. Specter said, adding, “I think in the popular mind, the woman’s right to choose is still the dominant issue.”

(Hopefully Specter will be able to stand up to the more fanatical members of his party.)

So, in spite of Alito’s fairly positive polling numbers, and the fact that Christian, conservative and corporate groups have been pumping millions into radio and TV ads (I heard one today that inferred that all of those opposing his nomination were drug-taking evil-doers), it may not be a slamdunk.

The question is, how far are the Democrats willing to go? Will they filibuster if he refuses to answer questions concerning spying on Americans or a woman’s right to choose? Will they have the guts to stand up and fight for something they believe in, even though mid-term elections are less than a year away, and they know that doing so will be used against them? If you have the time, consider contacting your Senators, telling them how you feel about Alito, and urging them to make a stand. This, after all, is a man who, based on his previous record, would overturn Roe v. Wade, allow race-based and disability-based discrimination, strike down the Family Medical Leave Act, and support further government and corporate invasions into personal privacy – not a very good choice to replace the relatively moderate Sandra Day O’Connor.

If you want to contact your Senators or find other ways to get involved, you can do so through the People for the American Way.

And if you have any other thoughts on Alito (either for or against), please feel free to leave a comment.

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  1. Theodore Glass
    Posted January 9, 2006 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    From my mailbox this morning:

    Dear Friend,

    Greetings from Colorado Springs. In the New Year, are you praying for a return to the Christian heritage upon which this nation was founded? Are you hoping that prayer will be allowed in public schools and that the Ten Commandments will be displayed proudly on public property? We believe this may be the year our country’s secular trends will begin to be reversed

  2. mark
    Posted January 9, 2006 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    I listened to most of the introductory statements this afternoon and they just made me crazy. Every statement that was made by the Republicans was completely invalidated, in my opinion, by what had happened a few months ago with Harriet Miers. The evangelical base of the Republican party cast her aside because they couldn’t be convinced that she would vote their way, and now the Republican members of the Judiciary Committee have the audacity to suggest that it’s somehow unethical for the Democrats to question Alito as to how he would decide on various issues. It makes me sick.

  3. mark
    Posted January 9, 2006 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    This comes from People for the American Way:

    Alito’s Credibility Problem

    The months since Alito was nominated have been filled with news reports about deeply troubling aspects of his record. Judge Alito has tried in vain to distance himself from his past, causing senators to fundamentally question his credibility.

    As one ad airing this week highlights, Alito broke his pledge to recuse himself from cases involving Vanguard funds, with which he had significant investments. Alito and Bush administration officials have offered at least three different excuses for his failure to keep his promise, including blaming a “computer glitch.”

    In his Senate questionnaire, Alito implausibly claimed not to remember having been a member of a group known as Concerned Alumni of Princeton, which advocated

  4. Theodore Glass
    Posted January 11, 2006 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    And he says that he won’t even answer the simple questions, as they might lead to more complicated ones. It’s bullshit.

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