Judging Judge Alito

Published: Friday, January 20, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 19, 2006 at 10:28 p.m.
We would rather not see Samuel A. Alito Jr. become a member of the U.S. Supreme Court.
His history as a jurist indicates that he has little respect for precedent. His answers during last week's Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings were for the most part evasive. It's clear from his record as a justice that he will be inclined to support unbridled government power, favor corporations over individuals and whittle away at abortion rights, privacy rights and other civil liberties.
We hope the U.S. Senate will refuse to consent to his nomination. But that's not going to happen. The confirmation vote in the Senate will likely fall out along party lines. Republicans have the votes to confirm, and the only way Democrats might prevent that from happening is by mounting a messy filibuster battle.
But that would be a mistake. It would further divide the country and set a dangerous precedent that Democrats may later come to regret..
We fear that Alito's confirmation will help shift the court dangerously to the right. But it is also clear that, his personal ideology notwithstanding, this nominee is well qualified to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. He is highly rated by the American Bar Association, well regarded by his peers on the bench and is known as a jurist possessed of a keen intellect.
In stark contrast to President Bush's previous nominee, the spectacularly unqualified Harriet Miers, Alito's credentials are impeccable.
So it comes down to this. It was made crystal clear during the presidential election that the winner would have the opportunity to appoint at least one, and likely more, Supreme Court justices.
We would not insult the voters by suggesting they did not understand that, in choosing between George W. Bush and John Kerry, they were also choosing between a court that was going to lean more to the right or more to the left. Neither did candidate-President Bush mince words when he indicated his intention to appoint conservative justices.
So what would be the end game of a Democratic filibuster? Should Alito's nomination somehow collapse, Bush could be expected to nominate yet another equally conservative candidate who may or may not be as qualified as Alito.
A rightward shift on the court seems unavoidable at this point. If opponents of his nomination have a legitimate recourse, it is to try to influence voters in 2008 in the hope that the next president will be inclined to fill future Supreme Court vacancies with more moderate nominees.
"George Bush won the election," U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., said this week. "If you don't like it, you better win elections."
Alito is precisely the sort of jurist Bush promised voters he would nominate, and this nominee is entitled to a straight up or down vote.
Democrats lost the fight over the Alito nomination in 2004. Resorting to procedural obstructionism and delay tactics would be ineffective and counterproductive.

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