President Bush today announced his new nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, judge Samuel Alito, after accepting Harriet Miers withdrawal last week. Miers failed in her bid to make it onto the bench in part because she probably wasn’t qualified to serve, but what really sunk her battleship was that she wasn’t a “true conservative” who could be counted on to vote with the far right of the Republican Party.
That won’t be a problem with Alito. From the Associated Press:
President Bush, stung by the collapse of his previous choice, nominated veteran judge Samuel Alito on Monday in a bid to reshape the Supreme Court and mollify conservatives. Ready-to-rumble Democrats said Alito may curb abortion rights and be “too radical for the American people.”
Drawing an unspoken contrast to failed nominee Harriet Miers, Bush declared that Alito “has more prior judicial experience than any Supreme Court nominee in more than 70 years.”
Abortion emerged as a potential fault line. Democrats pointed to Alito’s rulings that sought to restrict a woman’s right to abortion. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, a Republican who supports abortion rights, said that Alito’s views on the hot-button issue “will be among one of the first items Judge Alito and I will discuss.”
Alito is in because he is a known entity to conservatives who hope he will bring his conservative bias with him onto the bench. Miers failed because she might have been too unbiased, which is a strange noose to wear for a judge. This paradox is something that Democrats should be doing more to trumpet, but instead they give ground again to Republicans…again.
Many Republicans like to say that Democrats want “activist judges” on the court and that they must be stopped from putting their “activist judges” in a position of power to change laws. But now that conservative Republicans are clearly and unabashedly hoping to insall a Supreme Court justice with conservative bias to do just this, Democrats don’t use the “activist judge” line and turn it around. Why is Alito not an “activist judge” if he is lauded for being biased? Conservatives want to support a nominee who will take his own bias onto the bench and theoretically use that bias in his rulings (like overturning Roe v. Wade, for example). Isn’t that the definition of an “activist judge?” Why don’t Democrats use this line en masse?
This has always been a fundamental political problem for Democrats in that they are always reluctant to punch back. They let Republicans attach labels to them without doing anything to stop it (see: John Kerry and Swiftboat Veterans), and when they have a chance to throw that logic back at Republicans…they sit on their hands. Sure, there are some Democrats who will use this argument, but by and large the mantra isn’t repeated like it is when Republicans use it. What’s different with this scenario?