Hiking With the Sherpa

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Nov 18, 2005 1:05 PM

Just got off a blogger conference call with Dan Coats, Samuel Alito's guide through the Senate confirmation process.

Coats opened by saying there's clear momentum for Alito among the "Gang of 14," (though there is this tidbit from Salazar today) and that they just finished their 66th meeting on the Hill.

"These meetings went exceptionally well... He made the case that he's not anything like some of the charicatures, I think to the satisfaction of a lot of Senators."

So far, Coats said, Alito has done a great job of explaining his positions in various rulings to Senators, so they understand his process and philosophy and not just the outcome.

Flip Fidot of Suitably Flip asked about the nominee's response to the newest Alliance for Justice ad, which claims that he ruled "to make it easier for companies to discriminate." Coats:

"Anyone who takes the time to read the case…none of them have drawn the conclusion that the Alliance for Justice has."

Ahh, but how many regular Americans will be reading that opinion over Thanksgiving and Christmas break? Due to the late scheduling of the hearing, Dems have a lot of time to create such mischaracterizations of Alito's rulings.

About those regular Americans, Patrick Hynes of Ankle Biting Pundits said he'd talked to someone in a Senator's office who said the Senator had not received one call on Alito. Why the silence from the grassroots?

"I think it hasn’t started at the grassroots level because what they see hasn’t raised any alarms...I think the charges out there simply haven't found any traction."

A couple questions about the kind of questions Alito might face. From John Hawkins: Can Alito use the Ginsburg Precedent on Roe v. Wade questions in light of the fact that there have been several rulings by the Court on the subject since he publicly stated his beliefs?

"I think the Ginsburg rule does apply...All he can do is talk about principles, stare decisis and where it might apply."

Coats said Alito will undoubtedly face more questions about his record and rulings than did Roberts, as Alito's heard something like 3,500 cases over his years on the bench. But he's shown himself intelligent and consistent in explaining his rulings so far and he'll continue to be in hearings, Coats said.

Sen. Sam Brownback said yesterday during the Senate Blogorama that he doesn't think Alito will face a filibuster, but that if he does, the Republican majority will pass the constitutional option. I'm with him that there doesn't seem to be a filibuster in the air, but everything seems almost eerily quiet. Conservatives have to stay alert at the controls over Thanksgiving and Christmas, answering charges and silly ads quickly before they become truth to folks who are just catching ads in between turkey and football.