Thursday, January 12, 2006

Alito Before Senate Judiciary Committee: Day Three

It's pretty damn scary when a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee doesn't seem to understand the societal weight of a Supreme Court Justice and, with a lifetime appointment, the stringent vetting required in the Senate's advice-and-consent function. Because there was Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) yesterday, fawning all over Judge Samuel Alito in the third day of his confirmation hearings and apologizing for the rigors of the exercise.

"Judge Alito, I'm sorry that you've had to go through this. I am sorry that your family has had to sit here and listen to this," said Graham.

Give me a break. I've seen Cub Scout meetings more contentious than the first three days of these hearings, despite them being enough to send Alito's wife, Martha-Ann Bomgardner, fleeing the room in tears at one point yesterday.

No Senator from either party should be apologizing. These hearings are for a position that could last 20 or 30 years and allow one man to exercise enormous influence over the lives of every American and the future of our nation. I'm sorry, but a few tough questions may be in order.

Abortion rights was front and center again on Wednesday with Alito continuing to stay silent on whether or not he still holds the same anti-choice views that he did in 1985. "I don't think it's appropriate for me to speak about issues that could realistically come up" before the courts, he said.

Dick Durbin (D-IL) followed up on Chuck Schumer's (D-NY) continued attempts to get Alito to give a straight answer on Roe v. Wade by hitting him up first thing yesterday morning.

"On two Supreme Court cases, Griswold and Brown now, you have said, just right as we started this hearing, that you believe there is a constitutional basis for this protection and for this right. And yet, when it came to Roe v. Wade, you would not," said Durbin. "Most of us are troubled by this 1985 memo. You said yesterday, you would have an open mind when it came to this issue. I'm sorry to report that your memo seeking a job in the Reagan administration does not evidence an open mind. It evidences a mind that sadly is closed in some areas."

Alito again demurred. "I would approach that question the way I approach every legal issue that I approach as a judge, and that is to approach it with an open mind and to go through the whole judicial process, which is designed, and I believe strongly in it, to achieve good results, to achieve good decision-making."

Ted Kennedy (D-MA) went after Alito primarily on his membership in the ultra-conservative Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP) including reading a startling clipping from a 1984 edition of the organization's magazine that commented on AIDS research being done at that time on monkeys and said "Now that the scientists must find humans, or rather homosexuals, to submit themselves to experimental treatment. Perhaps Princeton's Gay Alliance may want to hold an election."

Alito continued to behave as if he had almost no recollection of CAP – a notion that still had Kennedy bristling after the day ended.

"He can remember all 67 [legal] dissents ... in great details," said Kennedy last night. "But he can't remember anything about this organization."

But before that, Kennedy and Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) got into it over Kennedy's request to subpoena records at the Library of Congress that might shed light on Alito's membership in the group.

"If I'm going to be denied that, I'd want to give notice to the chair that you're going to hear it again and again and again and we're going to have votes of this committee again and again and again until we have a resolution," said the Massachusetts Democrat.

This angered Specter, who said "I'm not concerned about your threats to have votes again, again and again. And I'm the chairman of this committee. ... And I'm not going to have you run this committee."

(You can view a clip of that entire interaction at Crooks and Liars and see why we love Ted Kennedy so damn much.)

Overall it was another day of questions about abortion, CAP and Alito's Vanguard investments, with very little in the way of substantive response.

"Just because there are words in response, doesn't mean the questions are answered," Senator Schumer said to Alito.