The Democrats may not have to reach a decision on whether to attempt a filibuster on the nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. to serve as justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. In the committee hearings, he is conducting a filibuster on his own. When a Democratic Senator finally asks a question, Judge Alito often gives a long response, complete with citations and detailed description of the relevant cases. His responses often leave the Democratic Senators
fumbling, like Jeanine Pirro, for what to say next.
Judge Alito has a lot of help with this faux filibuster. Each Senator seems to feel obliged
drone on and on with statements of philosophy and individual agenda arguments.
These responses, together with the excruciating long preambles by each Senator, have converted the hearing room into a torture chamber. Judge Alito has to sit calmly for hours and hours; spectators and reporters must also suffer. Such torture. Where are you, Senator McCain, when we need you?
The result so far: the Democrats have not laid a glove on him. There has been a lot of huffing and puffing about very little. Judge Alito failed to recuse himself as promised in one case until
requested by one of the participating attorneys. Much has been made of the fact that in 1985 he cited membership in Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP)when applying for a position in the Reagon administration. Because this organization had opposed admission of women and minorities, there was the taint of bigotry in the air. But no one believes that Judge Alito is any sort of bigot. The most that can be said that he obviously cited CAP as evidence of his conservative credentials but now conveniently claims no memory of CAP while he has demonstrated a prodigious memory of legal cases and long ago events.
More "troubling" - the word of the day for Democratic Senators - is his position on abortion and its implication for Roe v. Wade. In 1985, he wrote that his personal belief was that the Constitution did not protect the right of a woman to choose an abortion. Despite repeated attempts, the Democratic Senators could not get Judge Alito to say whether this was still his belief. He says that he will approach any abortion case with an open mind, as if any nominee would offer to approach with a closed mind. On executive and presidential power, he seems to be able to rest on his response that the President is not above the law.
The format of these hearings is faulty. The Senators grandstand. The Republicans praise the nominee as though he warrants the Nobel Prize, but often make statements or cite precedents that increase the fears for Roe v. Wade. The Democrats don't know how to ask a follow-up question or coax a "yes" or "no" answer, as a Matlock would surely do. It seems that conduct of the questioning by counsel for each party would constitute a vast improvement.
So Judge Samuel Alito will undoubtedly be confirmed. And he will vote to limit or overturn Roe v. Wade.