Feeling Out the SCOTUS Fight

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Jan 06, 2006 11:38 AM

Is it just me or anyone else just not feeling the Alito fight?

I don't mean to say that I won't fight for him or that liberals won't have their claws in his robe even as he ascends the Supreme Court steps. Those things will happen.

I just mean I don't feel the fight. Before the John Roberts hearings, you could actually hear the buzz of opposition research all the way across the Potomac in my little corner of Northern Virginia. The city vibrated with the flipping-through of old papers, the creak of rusty file cabinets.

Not so much this time. I know it's happening, but I just can't feel it like last time.

And if I can't feel it 300 yards outside the District, I wonder if the American people can feel it at all. Most of my Beltway friends tell me I'm wrong about this-- that the Alito hearings really will be a rhetorical World War that will reach to the hearts of the American people.

I may indeed be wrong. But the last two Supreme Court nominations have taught me not to expect what everyone expects. We expected a throw-down over Roberts. We got an ill-advised NARAL ad, a wealth of Katrina references, some vapid questions, and a pretty solid vote for Roberts.

We expected a battle for the ages over the O'Connor vacancy after Roberts was made Chief Justice. We got a battle over Harriet Miers, but it was hardly on the conventional field.

So, I just don't know what to expect. But I know this feels different. It feels like the Beltway is going through its motions. The money was raised, the negative ads will run, the silly questions will be asked and answered with the requisite respect.

And it feels like the rest of the country is putting up with it because they know it's what we Beltway types do. They're humoring us.

Who knows? Maybe it will be a fight for the ages. I think, either way, Alito gets confirmed and that's what matters.

Now, if you'll humor me, I'm gonna go man my battle station like a good Beltway soldier. Because when you don't know what to expect, you better dang well be prepared for anything.