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Out of step, but not yet out of time: Democrats search for the right play on Alito

The biggest non-story of the year so far coming out of Washington has been the nomination of Third Circuit judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. Democrats who were spoiling for a fight after the virtually frictionless confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts last fall were disappointed earlier this month when Judge Alito emerged unscathed from five days of Judiciary Committee hearings.

Not so lucky was one member of the committee. Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) ended up with egg on his face after he made a dramatic show of calling on the committee to subpoena the records of a controversial group called the Concerned Alumni of Princeton. Kennedy intended to use Judge Alito's association with the group, which between 1972 and 1986 had opposed co-education and affirmative action, to paint him as a sexist and a racist. But to Kennedy's chagrin, the records not only failed to sully Judge Alito's reputation, but failed to mention him at all. The CAP scandal, long rumored by Beltway insiders to be Judge Alito's undoing, vanished like smoke in a gust of Bostonian hot air.

It came as no surprise when, on Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted right down the party line, 10-8 in favor of sending the Alito nomination to the full Senate.

That's when things began to get interesting.

On Thursday, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) -- now, see if you can believe this -- took time off from hobnobbing in Switzerland to announce that he would call for a filibuster to block what by that time seemed like the shoo-in confirmation vote. The aforementioned Sen. Kennedy, yolk still curdling on his lapels, was quick to come out in support of the idea, even as Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) admitted that Democrats didn't have anything like the 41 votes needed to support such a move.

On Friday, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) made the baffling move of coming out in support of the filibuster. Judge Alito "would roll back decades of progress," the senator said in a statement, "and roll over when confronted with an administration too willing to play fast and loose with the rules." For that reason, the Senator said she would support "efforts to block his confirmation."

That's three down. Only 38 more to go.

One has to wonder at this point just what these three Democrats are thinking. The American people support Judge Alito by comfortable margins in every poll out there: FOX News/Opinion Dynamics has him up by 15, CBS News/New York Times has him up by the same margin, and CNN/USA Today/Gallup says that 54 percent of the American people favor confirmation. Have Sen. Kerry, Kennedy and Clinton not looked at the numbers? Do they think the President hasn't looked at the numbers? Seriously, do they really want to launch a filibuster on Monday so the President can stand up behind that lectern Tuesday night and hammer home the message that the Democrats are out of step with the American people? In an election year?

I think it's pretty safe to conclude that these three senators aren't trying to win the hearts and minds of the American mainstream with this move. Nor are they making a big, dramatic gesture in order to win more votes for themselves this November. Sen. Kerry isn't up for re-election until 2008, Sen. Clinton is expected to hold on to her seat by a comfortable margin, and Ted Kennedy could drive a car full of co-eds into a lake and still get 65 percent of the vote.

So it's not about making friends in the Heartland, and it's not about increasing their chances of winning re-election.

You know what I think? I think it's about money.

The party committees started releasing their 2005 fundraising figures last week, and the news wasn't good for the boys and girls in blue. The Republican National Committee brought home a whopping $102 million last calendar year, compared to a paltry $51 million raised by their counterparts at the Democratic National Committee. And that was the donkey party's best non-election year ever.

The story is a little different when it comes to the Senate campaign committees, but not different enough. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $44 million last year -- a record year for them -- but the National Republican Senatorial Committee wasn't far behind with $35.5 million. Any way you slice it, the Republicans are shellacking the Democrats when it comes to bringing in the green.

So when three senators who are in no danger of losing their seats make a political move that absolutely cannot pay off for them in the short run, one has to wonder just who they're talking to. I think it's those few trailing feathers way out there on the tip of the Democratic Party's left wing. You know the ones, the ones with big, fat ideas and big, fat wallets to back them up.

There's one other possibility, of course, one that's so chilling I hardly dare commit it to paper. If this filibuster stunt isn't a serious attempt to block the Alito confirmation, and if it's not an attempt to inject a little gas into the DNC's fundraising machine, then the alternative is almost too horrifying to bear.

What if these three senators are actually following their consciences?

No. No, that can't be it. Better to believe these three are playing a complex political game than to admit the possibility that they might actually oppose Judge Alito on ideological grounds. That's just too scary to contemplate.

Jeff Harrell blogs at The Shape of Days.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Out of step, but not yet out of time: Democrats search for the right play on Alito:

» Conservative Outpost linked with Daily Summary

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Comments (38)

>On Friday, Sen. Hillary Cl... (Below threshold)

>On Friday, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) made the baffling move of coming out in support of the filibuster.

I wouldn't call it baffling at all. (at least not IMO)

Hillary ain't running for Senator. She running for Prez. As such she has to play both sides of the fence. She comes down on the left side of things like abortion but gives lip service to things like faith based charities.

She's been schizophrenic for a few years... But there is method to her madness.

The hard left (which she desperately needs) is watching her on this one, so she has to kowtow. She knows that the she will lose more votes from the left if she rubber stamps Alito than she will gain from the right. (by far) And that is all that matters.

She is just trying to shore up her base. (such that it is, if you saw the last poll)

Understanding Hillary is easy. Just figure out what is in it for Hillary and you understand her motives.

my 2 cents.

Do as a say, not as I do. <... (Below threshold)

Do as a say, not as I do.

Sen. Barack Obama is quoted in the Wash Times as saying "I think that the Democrats have to do a much better job in making their case on these issues. . . These last-minute efforts, using procedural maneuvers inside the Beltway, I think, has been the wrong way of going about it."

The same article then notes: "Still, Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden said yesterday that they will support their party's hopeless filibuster."


Just amazing.

Here in Albany, even the pr... (Below threshold)

Here in Albany, even the pro-Hillary newscasts can no longer hide the backlash that her bizarre fence hopping is causing (I say hopping because she never really straddles the fence, she's either over on one side or the other, depending on who she's addressing). For instance, this morning on the news I heard that she was continually interrupted by anti-war protesters, a group that consists of people she'll need in the future, while she was bashing the administration at a charity fundraiser.

Hmmm.1. Kerry and ... (Below threshold)


1. Kerry and "consciences" combined together? I think I feel the Rapture coming on...

Frankly I think this is Kerry trying to appeal to the left. The left still has a lot of potential in terms of funding, and with enough funding you can remake your image in a lot of different ways. Additionally I think we need to remember that the Kos types on the left do seem to have a lot more influence now than in 2004. That trend itself might be enough to shift Democrats leftward instead of to the center.

While the lefty blogs won't appeal to everyone, or connect with everyone. Those that visit the lefty blogs probably are opinion leaders for their local political communities. And every attempt at a Presidential run requires winning the Primary first, having the lefty blogs and a huge wad of cash will always help in that regard.

2. Hillary has taken a huge hit from her lefty support base on the Iraq War and GWOT. Basically she's trying to rebuild her lefty-cred.

3. Ted Kennedy? Frankly I've got bupkis. Maybe he's worried about his re-election. Maybe he's got something else in mind.

4. NRSC: I think a lot of people aren't sending money to the NRSC because of that nonsense over Chaffee & Laffey. NRSC has gone pretty ballistic in it's attempt to torpedo Laffey, so who really wants to fund that? Those few conservatives I know that continue to support the GOP certainly don't wany anything to do with a re-election of Chaffee.

Hmmm.Aside from th... (Below threshold)


Aside from the fact that Obama is black, what exactly is the reason for most Democrats to go over the top for this guy? He's still in his first term, though that didn't stop the hyper-nonsense about him in 2004, and so far he hasn't exactly done much that I'd call significant.

Anybody got anything substantial or specific that Obama's done to justify this "star" classification?

So I can't help but wonder:... (Below threshold)
Cousin Dave:

So I can't help but wonder: Kerry shooting his mouth off doesn't suprize me, but would Reid make a public statement in support of a filibuster knowing that he doesn't have the votes? Is he really ready to humiliate himself in public this way?

My guess: I don't think so. I take this as a signal that Reid has the high sign from the Democratic half of the Gang of Fourteen -- they are going to break the deal. By my count, with four of their votes Reid has enough to sustain a filibuster. Look in the next few days for a media blitz on Alito's supposed extremism, as the Dems try to establish a case for the "extraordinary circumstances" mentioned in the Gang of Fourteen agreement. (The extraordinary circumstance being, of course, that a Republican president nominated a name for the Supreme Court without getting a mother-may-I from the Dems first.)

Re: Obama...all I've got is... (Below threshold)

Re: Obama...all I've got is that he seems to be well spoken, he talks as if he has ideas (although I guess we'll have to wait for the evidence) which is, of course, badly lacking in the donkey party, and, of course, he's the natural target of the press whenever a 'black perspective' is needed, irregardless of his white upbringing. I, too, would like to hear more about him if the info is out there (I rather suspect it's not).

You have to have a conscien... (Below threshold)
Dave A.:

You have to have a conscience before you can follow it.

The democrats should fight.... (Below threshold)
Mark Collins:

The democrats should fight. The republicans would.

Bush is a liar (uniter not divider; no nation building) and history will look back on him and the republicans of this era and call it a time of great national shame.

At least try to do the right thing democratic senators. The republican senators are whores to the republican agenda and can't think for themselves.

Jeff,I think you'r... (Below threshold)


I think you're right about KK&C following the money. George Soros practically funded the whole thing last time around and he is squarely in the ANSWER, MoveOn camp of Left cultists whose faith brooks no dissent or question.

consider the cultist Mark Collins in the comments above.

Exactly Mark!Bush ... (Below threshold)
Bill Smithe:

Exactly Mark!

Bush is pathetic... wha wha wha the weewigious white was all mean to Harriet. Is Alito okay Mr Dobson? Can I do anything else for you sir?

Cultist?That is ri... (Below threshold)
Mary Adams:


That is ridiculous. Do you even know that that word means?

Why don't you just call Mark Collins a torturer. That is about as inaccurate and off topic.

The issue here is the tyranny of the majority. The filibuster is a tool to fight that.

It is pretty sad if president bush cant do better than a candidate that will achieve only about 60 votes on tuesday (if the filibuster, as it likely will, fails).

Uniter not divider. EXACTLY! Liar liar liar!

Mary Adams

MaryYou and Mark h... (Below threshold)


You and Mark have said not a thing of substance. Dems are voting against Alito based on who nominated him, not on his unimpeachable qualifications.

"Liar liar liar!"

Yep, cultist mantra... are you sitting crosslegged on the floor with lit candles and fingering crystals while you chant that?

Re Mark, Bill and Mary -- h... (Below threshold)

Re Mark, Bill and Mary -- how many IP addresses are associated with those comments? I'm thinking fewer than three.

Maybe fewer than two.

Just a hunch.

Very funny Darlene. You too... (Below threshold)
Mary Adams:

Very funny Darlene. You too are a liar liar liar!
Because, Alito's credentials are not unimpeachable (another interesting and inappropriate choice of words) as you falsely and baldly assert -- in fact Alito could be impeached as he is a sitting judge. Judges can be impeached.

He has been reversed by Supreme Court majorities because his opinions are too far to the right of mainstream legal thought. The far right religious agenda loves him precisely for this purpose. That is one view; and certainly the opposite view is far from cultist or out of step. Further, his support of Executive power grabing and especially that crap about bush making a record (contrary to congress' intent) of executive "intent" when signing bills is unamerican and scary. Alito is behind that too!

There is certainly cause to filibuster him.

You statement that democrats are concerned about Alito is just plan wrong. First, so far at least one republican intends to vote against him; further bush's prior pick received bipartisan support.

I object to your false statements and call you out on them.

Just because you say these things -- cultism, lack substance, anti bush far from make them true when they are not.

Moreover, you ignore the point that your word choice of cultism is inappropriate. Attempting to gain support for a filibuster is not a cult.

I have strong suspicions that you do not know why democrats and Lincoln Caffe are against Alito. YOU seem to be the one that WANTS him simply because of who nominated him.

Karl Rove planted a listeni... (Below threshold)
Mary Adams:

Karl Rove planted a listening bug in his campaign office in texas and then "found" it just before the election.

Your tactic is right out of his play book McGehee.

I bet that you are an asshole.

Am I right?

Hmmm.Beca... (Below threshold)


Because, Alito's credentials are not unimpeachable (another interesting and inappropriate choice of words) as you falsely and baldly assert -- in fact Alito could be impeached as he is a sitting judge. Judges can be impeached.

My head just exploded.

Listening to Mary makes me ... (Below threshold)

Listening to Mary makes me want to buy stock in Reynolds Aluminium.

cue the theme from the Twilight Zone.

You didn't go to college, d... (Below threshold)

You didn't go to college, did you Darleen and ed?

Keep it simply (simplistic and fake) right?

Well of course they oppose ... (Below threshold)

Well of course they oppose Alito on ideological grounds. He was nominated by a Republican and did not confirm that a woman can kill her baby all the way up to its first birthday, so they can't possibly do anything other than oppose Alito as strenuously as possible.

3 Democratic hacks call for a filibuster. That's news to anyone?

YOU seem to be the one t... (Below threshold)

YOU seem to be the one that WANTS him simply because of who nominated him.

What a ridiculous assertion. If that were the case, we all would have supported Harriet Miers. But we all didn't, and many of us strongly suggested to the President that he nominate a conservative jurist with better qualifications. Which he did. And so now Bush is accused of being a thrall of the religious right. Ah well, damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Actually, the more serious ... (Below threshold)

Actually, the more serious objection are his views on executive power grabing; review that issue because it is more important. Further, it is more than abortion. Ailto will vote to favor business/corporations over every day people/individual rights in general; he is an idiologue.

Did you dig that crap about legislative/judicial intervention in the Terri Schiavo case? If so Ailto you for you too. Not me though.

Ailto(sic) will vote to ... (Below threshold)

Ailto(sic) will vote to favor business/corporations over every day people/individual rights in general; he is an idiologue.

Cuz Uncle Teddy told you so.

Screw actual merits of any case, just look at the plantiff and respondent - who they are - and that'll tell you everything you want to know.

Hey, "Mary", why have trials at all? Just convict according to class! rich/business = bad, poor/individual = good. Wow, what a great way to run the judiciary!

BTW Mary... yes, I did go t... (Below threshold)

BTW Mary... yes, I did go to college and received a Bachelor of Science

Thus not an Liberal Arts major who has been conditioned to decide things on feelings rather than reality.

Only a total ass uses sic f... (Below threshold)

Only a total ass uses sic for an obvious typographical error. Speaks volumes.

We BAs used to think of the BS as a "Bull Shit" degree. I'm sure we were wrong; especially since I didn't hear that kind of talk among fellow JD candidates. Did you get a degree in Astrology? Because you seem like an air head.

LOL... Just a joke
by the way, you republicans are really mean and nasty.

"Thus not an (sic) Liberal ... (Below threshold)

"Thus not an (sic) Liberal Arts major who has been conditioned to decide things on feelings rather than reality."
Posted by Darleen


Not sure what college you went to, but you should demand a refund since you obviously fail basic English grammer. Just another example of the dumbing down of American. Congratulations!

Oh cool, gloria (sic). Let'... (Below threshold)

Oh cool, gloria (sic). Let's dismiss someone for an occasional typo in a comment section. And to pic a further nit, it was a spelling error, not grammar. Would you care to share your educational background?


by the way, you republic... (Below threshold)

by the way, you republicans are really mean and nasty.

ROFL. Priceless, Mary. Priceless.

Darleen:You really... (Below threshold)


You really are an idiot. It's a grammer issue, not a spelling issue. I have a doctorate in clinical studies. And you?

Rove/republicians is/are pr... (Below threshold)

Rove/republicians is/are preparing these fake al queda tapes to aid bush. One, just before the election. One to stop the impeachment talk about illegal wiretaping. Now, on the eve of the state of the union.

Pay attention~

Hmmm.1. <blockquot... (Below threshold)



You didn't go to college, did you Darleen and ed?

Nope. Never finished high school. But what the hell. *I* know that in order to impeach a judge the judge has to have done something you know ... impeachable.

As for college degrees; I wipe my ass with them.

I work in the computer industry where people have to actually know what they're doing rather then pretend a piece of paper can substitute for knowledge.


Only a total ass uses sic for an obvious typographical error. Speaks volumes.


sic: Thus; so. Used to indicate that a quoted passage, especially one containing an error or unconventional spelling, has been retained in its original form or written intentionally.

You're quite amusing Mary. In a sort of freakish rabid mouth-foaming lefty way.


We BAs used to think of the BS as a "Bull Shit" degree.

Yes Mary. I'm certain that this viewpoint was very very impressive to you when you first thought this up.

Don't quit your day job.

[sucks] ed,Who car... (Below threshold)

[sucks] ed,

Who cares what you think?

Hmmmm.[su... (Below threshold)


[sucks] ed,

Who cares what you think?

You went to college for this?


It's spelled g-r-a-m-m-A-r.... (Below threshold)

It's spelled g-r-a-m-m-A-r.

I have a BA--actually listed as A.B. because my college's degrees and diplomas are written in Latin--in English and a Master's in English Education; I've also completed mt course work for a Ph.D.

(have I passed the credentials test so far?)

A Supreme Court justice's political opinions are immaterial provided he or she does not allow them to prejudice the interpretation of law. As a teacher, I have strongly held beliefs, but I do not allow them to influence my conduct as a teacher.

Perhaps only those on the left doubt this because they are incapable of it.

Please excuse any typos; I teach English, not keyboarding.

Well,It is naive to ... (Below threshold)

It is naive to think that Alito and several others currently on the bench do not engage in results-oriented interpretation.

Your tactic is ... (Below threshold)
Your tactic is right out of his play book McGehee.

What "tactic" is that? Noticing a similarity in tone among comments bearing different names, all of whom agree with one another? And I see you've added yet another personality to your collection. When do we get to meet the one called Sybil?

I bet that you are an asshole.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. You're rubber, I'm glue, blah blah blah.

Hmmm.You know that... (Below threshold)


You know that is just so wrong. McGehee writes a couple sentences and he gets called an "asshole". I write an essay and all I get is "[sucks]".

There are simply no standards amongst the left anymore.

What does McGehee have that I don't have? Now I'm going to go and sulk.

Well Ed,He probabl... (Below threshold)

Well Ed,

He probably has something to "wipe his ass" with besides his hand.






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