Last Friday morning, in a Hart Senate Office Building meeting room, legal counsel and some staff from People for the American way, NARAL, NOW, Alliance for Justice, and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights held a pen and pad (no TV cameras) briefing for reporters and some Democratic Senate staff to discuss their opposition plans to the Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel Alito.
Republican staff that attempted to enter were barred from the room, as were several reporters from publications and newspapers who arrived for the briefing but had not been formally invited.
The room, Room 512, had been reserved earlier in the week by the office of Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid. And Reid staffers, as well as staffers for Sens. Dick Durbin, Ted Kennedy, and Joseph Biden, were seen entering and exiting the room during the briefing.
There wasn't much to the briefing, beyond an overall message that Alito was doomed to failure because of documents -- beyond the recently released 1985 job application and memo to the solicitor general -- that were surely still to be made public confirming what the left believes is a hardened position to overturn abortion, as well as civil rights law. Much of the hysteria is built around the Alito's writing as a Reagan Administration staffer back in the mid-1980s.
Nervous Republican Senators reached out to the White House last week for reassurances on those documents, and were told that there were no major surprises. In fact, the White House appears to have done a good job of getting most of the most explosive documentation out into the public domain far earlier than Democrats and their third-party operatives expected.
And that is why the Friday pen and pad was interesting to watch. According to Democratic leadership sources, Sen. Harry Reid was pressed in meetings and conference calls last week to allow his party and his caucus to go on the offensive against Alito. "Not just push back, we really want the knives to come out," says a leadership staffer. "The leader has been holding us back now for close to a month, and our caucus is getting itchy."
After the latest set of documents was released, Reid relented but asked that Senators and their staffs work closely and coordinate with groups such as People for the American Way and NARAL for what Reid termed "the dirty work," according to Democratic staff who were briefed on the conversations.
"The third party groups have the money and the ability to go after Alito and beat him up pretty bad if they have the ammunition, and that is the goal. We want Alito -- in the minds of the American public -- to be the second coming of Judge Bork. That's the goal," says another Democratic Senate staffer.
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