The Alito Interrogation

     The Senate Judiciary Committee finally began Samuel 
Alito's confirmation hearings, and they've been a bit 
less dramatic than we all expected. The liberals -- 
Kennedy, Schumer, Biden, Leahy, and Specter -- tried to 
extort promises that, as a U.S. Supreme Court justice, he 
would guarantee the results they would prefer. Alito, 
like the good lawyer he is, avoided giving the sort of 
answers they were angling for.

     Alito, like John Roberts, proved adroit at the 
lawyer's technique of what you might call evasion by 
exactitude. He is averse to the sort of sweeping imperial 
edicts liberals crave from the judiciary. Instead, he 
meticulously sticks to answering the specific question 
before the court. This painstaking approach has enabled 
him to cite the abortion opinions of Sandra Day O'Connor, 
for example, as a basis for limiting the scope of legal 
abortion. The lady herself might be surprised at the 
implications he has discovered in her own words.

     In a world given to exaggeration, we do need people 
who measure their words with care, even if some of them 
are, perhaps unavoidably, lawyers. Alito also effectively 
disarmed the Democrats' attempt to make him sound like a 
pervert who favors strip-searches of little girls by 
patiently explaining why he had upheld the legality of 
one such search; you could disagree with his reasoning, 
but the Democrats overshot by trying to make it sound as 
if he had a predilection for such intrusions.

     The Democrats appeared frustrated and irritable as 
Alito appeared calm under fire. Delaware's Joe Biden 
seized the opportunity for self-parody, posing his 
trademark interminable "questions" which even the deadpan 
NEW YORK TIMES couldn't resist poking fun at: In a 
separate front-page story on the hearings titled "But 
Enough About You, Judge; Let's Hear What I Have to Say," 
it mockingly contrasted the garrulity of the senators 
with the brevity of Alito's answers, using graphs for 
illustration. Biden, it dryly noted, "managed to ask five 
questions in his 30-minute time allotment."

     There must be a word for Biden, but it's not 

     But the Democrats' hearts really weren't in it. Not 
even Kennedy and Schumer managed the sort of mad-dog 
partisanship for which they are justly renowned. They 
seemed resigned to seeing him confirmed, but apparently 
felt duty-bound to show up and make some perfunctory 
gestures of opposition to satisfy their political base.

     They did make an effort to grill Alito on his record 
of support for executive power in time of war, but again 
he smoothly deflected them.

     By the third day of questioning, there was a small 
flurry of indignation about Alito's one-time membership 
in a conservative group called the Concerned Alumni of 
Princeton, back when even the Ivy League recognized two 
sides to such questions as coeducation.

     It's always amusing when Ted Kennedy trolls for 
scandals in other people's pasts; he must break all 
previous records for unconscious irony. I'd almost be 
willing to contribute to the re-election fund of the 
first Republican on the committee who says, "Oh, lay off, 
Ted. That was back in the days of Chappaquiddick!"

A Special Providence?

     "There's a special providence in the fall of a 
sparrow," says Hamlet, and Pat Robertson thought he saw 
the Lord's hand clearly in the stroke that felled and 
nearly killed the prime minister of the state of Israel, 
Ariel Sharon. Robertson outraged and/or amused nearly 
everyone with the explanation that Sharon was guilty of 
"giving away God's land" by ceding Gaza to the 
Palestinians and dismantling Jewish settlements he 
himself had originally encouraged.

     Well, that's certainly one way to look at it, I 
guess. When a 78-year-old man is short and squat (nearly 
300 pounds), most of us are content to account for his 
health problems without recourse to supernatural 
intervention. To listen to Robertson, you'd think the Old 
Testament were still being written. "And the Lord was 
very angry, and said, I will smite Ariel; and lo, he did 
smite him."

     (He did also smite Dick Clark, and I await 
Robertson's explanation of that too.)

     Sharon was perhaps overdue for a divine smiting, 
given his long and bloody record; he achieved his 
greatest notoriety when he led the 1982 invasion of 
Lebanon and bore responsibility for arranging one of the 
most shocking atrocities in modern Mideastern history, 
the slaughter of 2,000 people in the Sabra and Shatila 
refugee camps; more recently, his policy of "targeted 
assassinations" featured last year's killing of an old 
man, blind and quadriplegic, in a wheelchair. President 
Bush saluted Sharon as "a man of peace and courage."

     Certainly Sharon is a hero to the neoconservatives. 
As soon as he had his stroke, he was eulogized as a 
leader of titanic stature and vision by Charles 
Krauthammer, John Podhoretz, Mortimer Zuckerman, and -- 
almost unbelievably -- NATIONAL REVIEW, which seems to 
have forgotten that its great geopolitical thinker James 
Burnham ever existed. In the magazine's earlier and 
better days, Burnham was very firm in columns and 
editorials insisting that American interests were being 
sacrificed by our politicians to those of a foreign 
power, for no better reason than to win Jewish votes in 
New York.

     Bill Buckley himself used to joke about this blatant 
pandering; you have to wonder if his old magazine, whose 
control he has relinquished to younger souls, embarrasses 
him now, as it outdoes the panders he used to ridicule.

     True, in the last months of his career, Sharon made 
a startling reversal by making minor concessions to the 
Palestinians; but he never acknowledged that they have 
any rights at all, let alone the same rights as Jews. If 
you listen carefully, the same is true of the neocons. 
This includes even the professed Christians among them, 
who appear quite unconcerned about the rights of their 
fellow Christians in the Holy Land.

     We are used to politicians selling out their 
country; it's a little harder to get used to Christians 
abandoning Christians.

                 +          +          +                  

     SOBRAN'S shows you an Abraham Lincoln you've never 
met before -- the young man who won local fame as a 
militant enemy of Christianity and as a standup comic. 
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