Thursday, February 02, 2006

how to win a supreme court nomination

the NYT and WaPo opine. GOP reaps harvest planted in '82? goes back a little further than that. like 1973. or 1954.

from the WaPo...

"The irony here is that we thought we had accomplished something during the Bork hearings -- opening up the process, letting the American people see what was going on," said Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), Judiciary Committee chairman at the time of the Bork nomination. "But they learned something, too."

we apparently stopped learning at that point.

Ultimately, Schmidt would put in place a tight organizational structure and bring every tool at his disposal to the fight -- technology, the media, conservative special-interest groups, indignant Italian Americans led to believe Alito was being smeared. A nomination to the highest court in the land would evolve into a high-stakes political campaign -- shrill and choreographed -- and Schmidt would have the vast resources of the White House behind him. He would be helped by Gillespie, whose job was to communicate with senators, especially Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), a pro-abortion-rights moderate whom the White House needed to keep happy, and former senator Dan Coats (R-Ind.), who would be Alito's guide to Capitol Hill.

But just as critical as the internal structure was the heft of conservative leaders such as legal scholar Leonard A. Leo of the Federalist Society, who played a major role in bringing together 70 well-funded outside religious and conservative organizations last spring, when it was clear that Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist was seriously ill and at least one court appointment was on the horizon.

notice the unified, systematic, well-organized approach...

The liberal advocacy groups wanted nothing less than the Democratic leadership to take up a fight -- and penalize those who were fence-sitting. Roberts had been given a pass, but Alito was a different story. He would be replacing O'Connor, often the centrist vote on a divided court. But energizing Democrats was a challenge. Many simply didn't have the stomach for a fight they would probably lose.

A couple of weeks after the announcement of Alito's nomination, Reid summoned leaders from the groups to his office to discuss strategy with several top senators opposed to Alito, including Schumer. "We are not the enemy," Schumer told the lobbyists. "Stop going after moderate, red-state Democrats and start going after the Republicans." contrasted with back-biting and self-sabotage...

The abortion issue was losing steam, so the Democrats shifted gears. They tried portraying Alito as an extremist who wanted to give the president unfettered power. They also went after his credibility because he had not recused himself on a decision involving a financial institution in which he had investments. But nothing seemed to get traction.

Abortion was ruled out as a major issue for fear of alienating moderate Democrats. James Flug, a Kennedy aide who worked for the senator during the Nixon-era confirmation fights over Clement J. Haynsworth Jr. and G. Harrold Carswell, insisted that Kennedy and others could get traction pressing Alito's connection to the Princeton group, as well as his failure to recuse himself from cases involving mutual fund giant Vanguard, with which Alito had investments. Others believed it more fruitful to demonstrate that Alito's rulings on the circuit court never gave the little guy a fair shake.

The result, everyone agrees now, was a disaster. Committee Democrats were all over the lot the first day of the hearings, leaving their allies in the groups stricken that a valuable opportunity for tough questioning was squandered. While subsequent days went slightly better, the legalistic arguments were difficult to follow. Even Kennedy's demand for documents from the Princeton group was overshadowed by pictures of the nominee's wife, Martha-Ann Alito, in tears.

...pathetic, unorganized flailing, and complete permission to be manipulated.

from the NYT, a simple namecheck should suffice: rehnquist, roberts, alito, reagan, federalist society, abraham, meese, gray, kmiec, pepperdine, bork, olin foundation, thomas, focus on the family, american family association, scalia, leo, judicial confirmation network, creative response concepts, sekulow, american center for law and justice.

merely one arm of the vast right-wing there-in-broad-daylight-for-all-to-see...

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