31 Oct 2005

The pending SCOTUS confirmation fight

This time the president gave us what we hoped for. Our adversaries are skillful and determined, and we are unquestionably going to face a full scale, no-holds-barred effort to block Samuel Alito’s nomination. The fate of this particular nominee will be strongly influenced by his performance before the Judiciary Committee, but a filibuster attempt seems virtually inevitable. In recent years, conservatives have soundly trounced liberals in the domestic marketplace of ideas, but we still lack the political leadership in Congress capable of engaging the Kennedys and Schumers and their staffs on equal terms. Are GOP votes lined up and locked in for the “nuclear option” to be invoked? Is Senator John McCain under control on this one? Have we planned for the next step, in case Judge Alito’s confirmation is successfully blocked? It has seemed obvious, since the time of President Reagan, that the answer to unreasonable leftwing opposition to well-qualified judicial nominees is simply to make it clear to all concerned that the president has a list, and that on that list there is a nominee B more conservative, more unpalatable to the left, than nominee A, and that after nominee B, there is a still more conservative nominee C, and so on.

Todd Zywicki at the Volokh Conspiracy remarks on the appearance of ethnic Catholics like Judge Alito as Republican nominees as indicative of the watershed changes in American politics in recent years in which the children of working class Catholic immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe have moved up and out of the working class, and up and out of former ties to the democrat party.

He writes:

I think that the demographic fact of the make-up of the conservative Justices (Thomas, Scalia, and Alito) is a remarkable statement on the nature of modern conservatism… I don’t know Alito, but I feel like my background growing up is similar enough to his that I will hazard a few speculations on what this says about the nature of modern conservativism. For those like myself (and I hazard to guess Scalia, Alito, and Thomas) conservatism is attractive because it now seems to be the party of meritocracy where one is judged on your character and ability, and not on your connections or demographics. As the doors of schools such as Princeton and Yale Law School (in Alito’s case), and the professions themselves have been thrown open to Italians, Poles, Irish, etc., individuals such as Scalia and Alito have had the opportunity to prove themselves.

Among other things, I think this cultural upbringing reflects itself in a skepticism about racial preferences in college admissions and hiring. It is difficult to say, from what I can tell, that Sam Alito’s ascent to the Supreme Court came about through some sort of unfair advantage, money, or family connections. In the legal arena, I think this cultural temperament may reflect itself in a anti-elitist streak rebelling against the arrogance of the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary and a humility in the face of the common-sense of citizens as reflected through democratically-elected legislatures.

Professor Zywicki got lots of flack (from derisive liberals who will not abide references to meritocratic advancement) in comments on his posting, and evidently decided that his use of the term “ethnic Catholic” could be taken as a euphemism for someone Italian, or produced some other kind of offense to politically correct sensibilities, and removed a portion of his remarks. Pity! I’d like to have seen the unedited version.

This nomination was marred by absolutely outrageous behavior at the White House Press briefing by CBS Chief Correspondent John Roberts. Roberts subsequently proffered a patently insincere disclaimer of obscene intent and a bogus apology. If this administration were operating properly, the White House Press Secretary would have responded to a hostile interrogative couched in terms of obscene allusion by immediately calling security, and having Marine guards escort that reporter from the premises, while recessing the proceedings long enough to order his secretary to fire off a facsimile notifying that reporter’s employer of the permanent loss of the credentials admitting him to White House briefings.

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