Meet the New Guy

I’m pretty tired of the Samuel Alito confirmation hearing.

I hesitate even to bring this up because so many bloggers have written about it so exhaustively and the truth is I don’t really have anything substantive or unique to add. But I have listened to the whole fucking thing so far (thank you, NPR), and I feel as if I myself have been through a grueling process. Maybe not as grueling as whatever Mrs. Alito thought she was undergoing when she burst into tears and ran sobbing from the hearing room, but bad enough that I think I should get to vent a little here.

I wish I had a television in my office at work, because then I could have watched the hearings as well as listened to them, and you know I would have. It would have been better to watch, because then I would have had an image to go with Alito’s voice, and it might have given me a better, more integrated impression of this guy who wants to be on the Supreme Court for maybe the next 40 years. But I had no image, so I have to go with what I picked up from his voice.

I don’t like him.

He doesn’t sound that smart to me. I don’t care about his humble beginnings and his degrees from Princeton and Yale. I know quite a few dumbasses who went to big-name colleges. President Bush, for example. So I don’t buy the “smart enough to do this job” argument, even if it is being made by other judges (who really shouldn’t be going to Congress and promoting one of their own in testimony before a political committee – WTF – but that’s not the issue here.). Hey, I was drunk for fifteen years during the seventies and eighties, but I still remember every club I joined, and I haven’t been prepped for testimony by a flock of flaks and handlers. Sam says he can’t recall being a member of Concerned Alumni of Princeton, and he is shocked – shocked! to learn that they were (are?) a racist group who thought that there were too many blacks and hispanics being admitted to the old school, and God damn, women wanted in to the eating clubs.

It just doesn’t sound smart to me. I mean, after he’s confirmed, what if he just forgets about the Sixth Amendment? It could happen. I mean, even though everybody else in the United States knows about his membership in the Society of Bigoted Princeton Grads, he doesn’t remember, and in three months of preparation the only answer to the inevitable question he could think of, even with all the help that Rove/Cheney/Bush could give him, is “I don’t remember.” Well, I should say that on the second day of questioning, he added that he didn’t renew when his initial membership ran out, so that’s pretty creative, I guess.

Still, I see only two possible explanations for this situation. One is that he’s a racist who joins racist organizations and wants to keep minorities “in their place.” Since he now claims he doesn’t remember any of this, a corollary might be that he’s a liar, like Clarence Thomas, who claimed he had never thought about or discussed with anyone the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision. The other explanation is that he’s stupid. I’m going to guess that he’s not a racist (humble beginnings, remember), but that leaves lying numbskull, and that doesn’t make me want him on the court.

For the past three days I’ve listened to his earnest, halting responses to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and I come away with the impression that he’s a guy who’s working way over his head. Maybe he studies real hard and writes down all the facts in two columns on foolscap, one column labeled “For” and one “Against,” and maybe he can manage to use that technique to come to legal conclusions that take the Constitution into account. But he seems to lack the quick wit, humor, intelligence and intuition that that I want in a guy who will be judging the most important questions we as a society can come up with for the next two generations.

And this is not even to mention that he is an extreme right-wing guy, an avid follower if not much of a leader. I mean, eewww.

He’s going to be placed on the court, of course. If the Democrats had anything to stop it, they would have brought it out before the hearings. The Princeton Bigot thing, his record of siding with corporate interests and government over the little guy, his sitting on cases in which he has a clear financial conflict of interest, his long-standing opposition to abortion rights, his whining wife – none of that will stop his confirmation. The Republicans have the votes, and they have the votes to change the rules in the Senate and stop any idea of a filibuster, too. I tried to warn people before the 2000 election – the winner gets to pick a bunch of judges – but the complacent left – the actual majority – stayed home, and look what a mess.

Now I have to hope the Dems can wrestle back a congressional majority in the next three years, and make laws that can’t be interpreted by the new court to mean that the President gets to do anything he wants, because he’s the President, damnit!. That’s a feeble glimmer of light for me, but it’s all I have, and the Republicans seem lately to be trying to sabotage themselves just at the moment when they could almost – dare we say it? – rule the world.

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19 Replies to “Meet the New Guy”

  1. Hey, Darlin’. Eeewwww indeed. I sense that my optimism sometimes irritates you. Strike that, not optimism (seeing the bright side of situations and sometimes ignoring the evidence), but hope (working for positive change even in the face of grim circumstances). I couldn’t bear myself to watch/listen/read anything about the hearings after I did my little senator letter-writing campaign.

    BUT one thing I can attest to, as a lawyer and someone who has studied Constitutional law and history for the past 12 years, is that (particularly in the realm of civil rights and liberties) the pendulum always swings back when it gets too far to one extreme. ALWAYS.

    Yes, we are heading towards the extreme right. But something will shock the conscience of the American public and bring it back . . . then it will eventually swing too far left and a collective outcry about something will bring it more towards center. We see this with search and seizure laws and criminal justice particularly. The case law gets too lax, then someone gets off on “a technicality” and murders someone, then harsher decisions start coming down until we’re almost in a fascist state until someone gets pulled over and searched without probable cause and something bad happens and the case law relaxes again as we remember the Constitution. That’s my take, anyway : )

  2. I agree with you about the pendulum but – and forgive me but I’ve been waiting 30 years to say this – Jayne you ignorant slut:

    With presidents and legislators, while I do everything I can to get “my” people elected, if I fail every now and then I can deal, because I know their terms are only two, four or six years, and they are subject to harrassment the whole time, and their policies can be negated if I can get rid of them in the next election. They can do a lot of damage, but nothing compared to a Supreme Court justice, who can stay for a generation or more, who doesn’t have to listen to anybody and whose influence will easily extend a generation or more past their retirement, which is usually the same day as their funeral. So I feel like we’re talking about a fifty-year swing here, which makes me a little morose.

    Heck, even the conservatives who are applauding this appointment won’t be able to do anything about it, once they realize what they’ve done.

    And no, sweetheart. Nothing about you irritates me, so far.

  3. I have a college degree and I know for a fact that a degree definitely means only two things; that you can do as you’re told and that you are not a rock or a vegetable. I had a hard time with the do as you are told part, but I had no problem with the not being an inanimate object void of any reason. It is my belief that, if given the capability of language and opposable thumbs, many primates and a few dogs, cats, birds, and other animals could graduate from college.

    The smartest pople with degrees are scientist, engineers, and doctors, and they don’t get enough respect (especially, doctors). I, too, know plenty of degree holders who can barely balance their checkbook and form a complete sentence.

    Right on, Mr. Jones. This guy is a close-minded schmuck who does not belong on the Supreme Court.

  4. Aydreeyin – I don’t want to turn this into a “trash college” fest. There is value in education – high school and higher, structured or not. When I was in school, a number of teachers told me that I was mainly there not to memorize facts, but to learn how to think. Maybe that’s changed these days, but a college degree is still a document you can use as shorthand for “I had a goal and I stuck with it until I achieved it. I’m a person who can see things through.” This is important and useful in real life, but it doesn’t prove you’re “smart.”

    Alito didn’t display any obvious signs of superior intelligence in his answers before the Committee, except in the various and colorful ways he didn’t answer any hard questions. Knowing he will be confirmed no matter what, I just wanted to make the point that he doesn’t meet the main qualification I would apply to the job, and point out the only way the Left has left to effect change or maintain civil rights in this country.

  5. great minds think alike. 😉

    i posted on the subject as well.

    you know, Lar…I am tired of this too and I’ve resigned myself to the fact that Bush owns the Supreme Court.

    i dunno…part of me wants to sit back and just watch all the work of civil rights activists go down in flames. part of me knows that is all i’ll be able to do…these are, after all, lifetime positions.

    when i was a little girl, i remember watching movies/and old news clips of American’s taking the streets in protest. Causing the country to come to a hault…creating change.

    that’s not the case these days…our government has taken more power than allowed, gone against constitutional law…spy illegaly on its citizens…and no action.

    i haven’t heard of one single riot, much less a formal citizen reaction.

    i think Americans have this coming. something really bad needs to happen, to shake it all to the core and cause a measurable reaction from the people.

    i’ll birng the popcorn…you bring the six-pack.

  6. G.D. – In my opinion, something really bad is happening. Maybe the reaction isn’t measurable because we are detached from real life these days.

    The baby boom generation caused some change in our society because we had the numbers, the time, money and education to get involved, ask for answers and demand change. Today, people don’t have such “luxuries.” It’s harder and more time-consuming to make a living. Basic commodities like health care are vastly more expensive and inaccessible. College – for those who can still afford it – is more of a corporate training ground than a place of thinking and questioning. So the conditions aren’t right for (peaceful) revolution.

    You could wonder whether these conditions are being manipulated by what we used to call “the Establishment,” and maybe they are. But however we got here, here we are. I’m not a leader, and I can’t make people get up and march behind me. But I wonder how many marchers would be out there anyway.

    I read your post, and I appreciate you staying engaged. It’s not easy. Also not easy to be funny and angry at the same time, which you also managed.

  7. I have a question.

    Do those appointed to the SC develop (best word I can think of) an intellectual disinterest or do they just take their prejudices and then make the facts fit them (as happens so often in the House of Lords)?

    I accept this will only be an opinion unless there’s a study you know of that has considered this and has passed the rigours of peer review, etc.

    And if you have no answer at all, then that’s ok, too!

  8. Jonny – I’m not sure exactly what is the function of the House of Lords. I have the impression it is largely ceremonial. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, is the body that compares our laws to our Constitution and decides which ones are allowed and which ones must be struck down. While they operate in a rarified, theoretical atmosphere, their decisions eventually trickle down to the real world, where they often impact us (and the rest of the world) greatly. An example of this would be the President’s power to make war whenever and however he wants to, without congressional approval, or even knowledge. There is language in the Constitution that some interpret to mean just that, while others see it differently. During Alito’s term (the rest of his life), this is likely to come before the court.

    The reason this is such a big deal is that both sides expect Alito to bring his preconceptions with him onto the court, and render judgments colored by them. This will affect American law for generations. We give lip service to the notion that a judge can be totally impartial, but we all know that one’s beliefs and prejudices will have at least some effect on the decisions he makes.

    I don’t know if it’s ever been studied academically, so, as you expected, this is only an opinion.

  9. I too am hoping the Democrats will wake up from their glorious-days-of-the-past dream and FOCUS. I’m also hoping Jane is correct – “the pendulum always swings back when it gets too far to the extreme.”

  10. I love how people have been calling him Scalito. He bugs me too, but it looks like he’s going to get confirmed, no doubt aided by the timely waterworks by his wife.

  11. Sorry, kinda assumed.

    House of Lords (HOL) 1) Upper level of Parliament. Can delay and change proposed legislation so that it must be considered by the lower, but ultimately senior, House of Commons once again.

    Can be overruled and so might be considered effectively redundant, but this is very rare.

    Also the place where a Prime Minister can promote people of a like philosophy so that when his/her proposed Bill gets that far, it has an easier ride and is more likely to become law without major change/delay.

    2) The Law Lords (British ultimate legal authority – synonymous with US Spreme Court) are part of the HOL and form a separate HOL which is the one I meant here. We have county courts, appellate court (Court of Appeal), and ‘ultimate’ court (HOL) before the European Court of Justice.

    Lesson over! 😛

  12. I need to know nothing more about this man other than he comes recommended by W. to know that he’s unqualified. I mean hello, remember the FEMA dude & the fiasco in N.O. b/c he wasn’t qualified? There are others too who aren’t making it into my mind right now that illustrate this man’s poor judge of character (no pun intended).

  13. Everybody – I’m not being negative about this, just realistic. I’m a partisan – I lean way to the left, but this battle is over, and I’m trying to get used to the idea, and figure out where the next battle is shaping up, and what I can do to help.

  14. THAT’S JUSTICE ALITO TO Y’ALL! Yes he was confirmed and I’m glad!! I am so sick of all your name calling against conservative jurists because they don’t fit your liberal paradigm. You are not entitiled to a consensus candidate. The debate for the future of the supreme court is decided on election days. The democrats had their chance in 2004 to make their case against Bush’s conservative preference for judicial nominees. Guess what, the voters gave him FOUR MORE YEARS AS THE NOMINATOR, AND HIS PARTY FOUR MORE SEATS IN THE “ADVICE AND CONSENT LEGISLATIVE CHAMBER.” The voters said yes to Bush and his judges and no to Filibuster King, Tom Daschle, and his road block followers. I will only concede that perhaps the voters of 2006 declared the 2004 voters wrong, and that the democrats have earned a significant say in the choice of a judicial nominee should Bush get another one. Reagan earned his undisputed say in 1980 and 1984; the democrats earned their say in 1986, and were in position to reject Bork; Bush1 earned his say in 1988 to name 1/2 conservative judges because the democrats retained control of the senate; Clinton earned his perogative to replace Byron White, a Roe Vs Wade desenter, with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the fortune to secure the seat occupied by the Roe author himself, Harry Blackmun with Stephen Breyer, just before the GOP siezed both houses. It’s quite retarded that y’al assert that a democratic president is entitled to move the court to the left with 55 senate seats, yet Bush2 must have 60 republican/conservative seats (55, we’re still alive!) to move it to the right. To demand a judge “to hold this truth to be self-evident that the right of life, liberty, and persuit of happiness stop at the vagina–that there is a constitutional vacuum between the womb and the clitoris that only the individual woman can decipher–” you have to win elections. Only then are you entitled to demand the rest of this country to bow in resignation that the bulk of your philosophy will serve as the pillers for the American legal system

  15. If you want your pary to demand that a judicial nominee “holds this truth to be self-evident, that the right of life, liberty, and persuit of happiness stops at the vagina–that there is a constitutional vaccum between the womb and the clitoris; which only the individual woman can decipher– you have to win elections. I concede your party did just that in 2006 and earned their say should Bush get a third pick to the high court. However, I don’t understand why you assert that your party is always entitled to a “consensus” nominee. Did not Clinton have the inherited privlage to move the court to the left with 55 senate seats? He was a benefactor in the expression, “to the victor go the spoils,” when he won the 1992 election. Orin Hatch conceded in that notion, or he would have had to be retarded to recommend Ruth Bader Ginsburg as Byron White’s successor. Similarly, the democrats would have to have accepted this notion in 1986 when they considered Scalia to indirectly replace Warren Burger (Renquist replaced Burger and Scalia replaced Renquist) rather than being too retarded to put up a fight. So why all of a sudden do standards change? Not only do you want the democrats to oppose a conservative nominee, you want to require the republicans and conservative democrats to occupy 60 seats because God forbid the high court’s sinful shift to the right!

    In anticipation to your question concerning Bush the elder being able to get Clarence Thomas through a 57-member-democratic-congress, perhaps the outcome fits the old expression. BushI won in 1988, but the democrats retained control of congress. Perhaps going 1/2 (David Souter a gift to you) was the best way to divide the loot.

    I will concede that their midterm 1986 victory put them in position to have a share in the spoils when they rejected Robert Bork to be Louis Powell’s seat, and I will do the same conserning the 2006 midterm electionions (should Bush name a third).

  16. Let the record show that “Crusader For Life” posted these three comments more than a year after my original post and all the other comments. Also, there was an earlier comment from Crusader that I deleted because it was gibberish — a server error message that made me think it might be some kind of spambot. If I had time to waste I bet I would discover that the first of these comments was written a long time ago and has already been posted all over the internet. The “voters of 2006” line looks like an update to me, and the fact that s/he “forgot” to break up the text into paragraphs suggests a copy-and-paste routine. In any case, the comment reads like a troll.

    And to you, Crusader For Life: I am concerned with more than just abortion rights. Your crusade is not important to me. I think the elections of 2000 and 2004 were stolen anyway, so even though you and I will have to live with the horrendous damage Rove/Cheney/Bush has done, I don’t have to accept the legitimacy of this administration.

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