Magazine article The American Prospect

The Right Fight

Magazine article The American Prospect

The Right Fight

Article excerpt

MANY DEMOCRATIC STRATEGISTS CONTEND THAT a battle to block Samuel Alito's elevation to the Supreme Court is the wrong fight at the wrong time. The Bush presidency is in trouble on so many other fronts: the deceptions that misled the nation into war, the disastrous war itself, the spreading stain of corruption, the bungling of Katrina, the defection of moderate Republicans from the Bush tax and budget program.

Given this self-inflicted Republican collapse, why pick a fight that could make Democrats look divisive and obstructionist? Why make Roe v. Wade the fulcrum of American politics? Why not concede Alito's confirmation, and fight on stronger ground? Why invite the charge of abusing Senate procedure with a filibuster?

Herewith a dissent. As the full record emerges, it's clear that Mito is a hard-line right-winger, and not just on abortion rights. Roe may loom too large in American politics. But Alito has been dreadful on numerous other issues. The far right is not cheering because Mito is some kind of moderate in conservative's clothing.

And of course while Chief Justice John Roberts filling the late William Rehnquist's seat is one conservative succeeding another, Mito would replace Sandra Day O'Connor, the swing vote not only on Roe but on the Michigan decision preserving affirmative action, on restraining money in politics, on Congress' ability to legislate family and medical leave, and dozens more issues where Mito would likely go the other way.

Given these realities, and coupled with the substantial weakening of the Bush presidency, it would be a huge mistake for Democrats to let Mito sail through and just get out of the way. Several Republicans may well oppose him on the merits, depending on what else comes to light before and during the hearings.

Moreover, the dynamics of a filibuster are markedly different now than they were last summer, when a bipartisan "Gang of 14" narrowly averted Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's "nuclear option" threat to change the Senate rules to prohibit filibusters on judicial appointees. After the sacking of Harriett Miers, the Republicans have lost any moral high ground on the always contrived claim that every nominee deserves an up-or-down vote. Dozens of Clinton appointees were denied a floor vote. Poor Miers was denied even the courtesy of a hearing. So any claim that Mito deserves a floor vote would reek of hypocrisy. …

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