The Alito Interrogation(Reprinted from the issue of January 19, 2006)
The Senate Judiciary Committee finally began Samuel Alitos confirmation hearings, and theyve 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 lawyers 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 OConnor, 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. Delawares Joe Biden seized the opportunity for self-parody, posing his trademark interminable questions which even the deadpan New York Times couldnt resist poking fun at: In a separate front-page story on the hearings titled But Enough About You, Judge; Lets Hear What I Have to Say, it mockingly contrasted the garrulity of the senators with the brevity of Alitos 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 its not staccato.
But the Democrats hearts really werent 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 Alitos 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.
Its always amusing when Ted Kennedy trolls for scandals in other peoples pasts; he must break all previous records for unconscious irony. Id 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?
Theres a special providence in the fall of a sparrow, says Hamlet, and Pat Robertson thought he saw the Lords 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 Gods land by ceding Gaza to the Palestinians and dismantling Jewish settlements he himself had originally encouraged.
Well, thats 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, youd 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 Robertsons 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 years 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 magazines 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; its a little harder to get used to Christians abandoning Christians.
SOBRANS shows you an Abraham Lincoln youve never met before the young man who won local fame as a militant enemy of Christianity and as a standup comic. Now, if you have not seen my monthly newsletter yet, give my office a call at 800-513-5053 and request a free sample, or better yet, subscribe for two years for just $85. New subscribers get two gifts with their subscription. More details can be found at the Subscription page of my website.
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|Copyright © 2006 by The Wanderer,
the National Catholic Weekly founded in 1867
Reprinted with permission
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