By the time you read this, the Senate will have confirmed — or will be poised to confirm — President Bush’s appointment of Judge Samuel Alito to the US Supreme Court. As anyone who has been reading these editorials knows, we think that’s bad news, extremely bad news. How much damage Alito will do, together with the other conservatives on the court, remains to be seen. To the extent that anyone following the confirmation hearings can draw conclusions from what Alito said, it seems clear that with the exception of abortion (he danced around Roe v. Wade in alarmingly vague ways) he has more in common with archconservatives Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas than with the other justices. Since it’s too soon to tell just how arch the admittedly conservative Chief Justice John Roberts is, there is profound cause for concern.
Another depressing, frightening, and inescapable conclusion to draw from the Alito confirmation hearings is this: even a Bush wounded by a war gone wrong in Iraq, even a Bush in the midst of a constitutional scandal due to warrantless domestic spying, and even a Bush whose political party is besmirched by lobbying crimes of historic proportions can foist a right-wing radical onto the nation’s highest court.
There is good reason for this: a significant portion of the American public is brain-dead. They are prisoners of the medium, focused on the images instead of the message. Because Alito is bland, they assume his jurisprudence will be mush. Because he went to good schools (Princeton and Yale Law) and isn’t arrogant (like Judge Robert Bork) and his wife cries when he’s attacked (the little lady stands by her man), then he’s a-okay, ready for prime time — not only for the Supreme Court, but perhaps for a sitcom or, even better, a reality-based TV show.
Alas, the reality of the decisions the Supreme Court wrestles with is serious. It’s real life, real time, real stuff. There is little reason to believe that Alito will not support Bush’s contention that anything Bush does as president while acting as commander in chief is constitutional; that Congress cannot pass laws against right-wing interest groups like the National Rifle Association; and that government agencies that are supposed to regulate big business should mind their own business. In a nutshell, that is what Alito’s record as a federal judge tells us about him. Is this cause for alarm? Only among Democrats, it seems. Because Alito is bland, the American people think he’s impartial.
: The Editorial Page
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