WASHINGTON — Sen. Ted Kennedy did his best to get exercised about the nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court yesterday. So did his audience at the Center for American Progress, John Podesta’s left-wing “think tank”/activist group in Washington, D.C. But between the weak case against Alito and the event’s reigning sense of resignation, Kennedy wasn’t roaring in protest so much as he was feigning outrage.
If Judge Alito’s tour of Senate offices this week is a victory lap, the deflated scene of Democrats announcing opposition to the soon-to-be justice is a defeat lap. Sen. Kennedy and his crowd had the sense of inevitable loss, lacking the spirit and defiance that embodied Democrat filibuster rallies last spring. The home crowd greeted and sent away Kennedy with polite applause. Kennedy omitted customary applause pauses in his speech, perhaps expecting such low spirits. There was no shouting, no cheering, no exuberance.
Perhaps it’s because no one cares. The American people don’t — they think Sam Alito’s an OK guy. Tim Russert doesn’t — Alito’s name didn’t merit a mention on Sunday’s show after a week of the Senate Judiciary spectacle. Even Senate Democrats don’t — only half bothered to show up for the closed meeting on confirmation strategy.
Not that the nomination of Sam Alito to the Supreme Court ought to ruffle any feathers. Kennedy’s speech was typical of the liberals’ case against Alito. Their proof that Alito is positively unfit for the bench is a series of negatives: he didn’t say enough, he wouldn’t disavow certain views. There’s no smoking gun, no clear-cut case or statement demonstrating outright hostility to our Constitution, the Bill of Rights, or adherence to them.
So Kennedy relied on a plurality of suspicions: Alito believes in the “troubling” “unitary executive,” which leads to NSA wiretapping and detaining citizens; Alito consistently doesn’t rule for the “little guy”; his “testimony failed to resolve the very serious concerns that he’s itching to overturn Roe v. Wade.”
Even these few limp charges are dishonest. Kennedy said, “But on opinions has authored, he has issued no less than 30 decisions dismissing job discrimination claims.” Oh my, 30? Not 29, but 30? With such emphasis before a left-wing crowd, the number is downright damning. But Kennedy didn’t bother to mention that Alito has participated in over 3,000 decisions.
The senior senator from Massachusetts also omitted key details of specific cases in which Alito supposedly went after minorities. Kennedy said, “Judge Alito even dissented from a ruling prohibiting the removal of African-American jurors because of their race.” The senator failed to add that Riley v. Taylor was James Riley’s last-ditch attempt to escape his murder conviction and spot on death row.
Beyond his selective and shady interpretations of Judge Alito’s decisions, Kennedy provided little other ammo: an op-ed by liberal law professor Cass Sunstein, the notorious Knight Ridder analysis, and a Washington Post “analysis.”
And Kennedy continued his apparent amnesia regarding his own role in the Alito hearings as well as in Judge Robert Bork’s nomination to the Court: “Instead of a free and honest exchange of ideas, our hearings have become stylized and choreographed appearances in which the nominees are coached to say as little as possible.” What a racket: the senator decries the consequences of the very hostile environment he helped create.
If Alito’s such an awful guy, one would guess Ted Kennedy would have called for a filibuster yesterday. Before and after the speech, attendees expressed dismay over the Democrats’ apparent surrender on a filibuster. Should they filibuster? one attendee asked. “It’s the only way to save the Court,” another replied with resignation.
But Kennedy didn’t even mention the possibility. Kennedy spokeswoman Laura Capps told TAS after the speech that “all options are open. [The filibuster] hasn’t been taken off the table and it certainly is on the table.” These moments of grave concern are merely for the record for the angry “netroots” and donors. Everyone’s outraged at Alito’s nomination, but not willing to waste any political capital fighting it. So just how outraged are they really?