At this writing - on Day Three of the hearings into President Bush's nomination of Samuel Alito to take Sandra O'Connor's seat on the Supreme Court - the predicted Armageddon has so far failed to live up to its advance billing.
Maybe it will come, but not yet.
The predictions went like this:
William Rehnquist was a conservative, so the conservatism of John Roberts would not change the left-right balance on the Court. Because Justice O'Connor has matured into a swing voter, the obvious conservatism of Judge Alito would move the Court rightward. His confirmation would mean the left's loss of the third branch of government. So his nomination is a justifiable reason for the legions of the left to mount the battlements and pour their boiling oil.
Instead, at this point, they've used only warm water.
These may be some reasons.
Roberts hardly had a record. For the K Street minions of judicial activism to comb in search of every possible deviation from the mandated leftist norm, Harriet Miers boasted no record at all. In her place President Bush sent up a nominee who has voted in 4,800 cases and written 361 opinions.
That record shows a man thoroughly credentialed, with just the right temperament and judicial philosophy; a man of estimable character. His wife has thrown in these tidbits: Her husband Sam is the family's holiday cook; one summer he taught himself Greek, another summer juggling; and she hears he's pretty good with a 12-gauge shooting clays.
Not a whole lot of opposition the left can manufacture out of all that. So the assault has had to launch along the most undesirable route - on his abiding conservative beliefs. Unable to win a case against Judge Alito on his merits, leftist senators et al. have gone after his views on social policy, his Justice Department work during the dread Reagan administration, and his membership in the Federalist Society - a group consisting primarily of lawyers and legal scholars committed to judicial restraint, and superceding in energy and prestige the ideologically enervated ABA.
Sen. Patrick Leahy acknowledges, "This (battle) is not over competence. (Judge Alito) certainly is competent. This is (over) the whole issue of ideology" - i.e., a conservatism that offends leftists everywhere. Howard Dean terms Judge Alito a liar. Sen. Charles Schumer charges: "In case after case, you give the impression of applying careful legal reasoning, but too many times you happen to reach the most conservative result."
Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.
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