I really don't have an answer to whether or not Democrats SHOULD filibuster the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. I found his answers drenched in legalese, offering himself a way out of the answer almost universally. Confirmation hearings under direct questioning, in the post-Bork era, are probably the least likely source for real information about a nominee. It's great for political theater, like the "spontaneous tears"
from the nominee's wife which were followed by an oh-so-timely press release:
The always-alert Creative Response Concepts, a conservative public relations firm, sent this bulletin: "Former Alito clerk Gary Rubman witnessed Mrs. Alito leaving her husband's confirmation in tears and is available for interviews, along with other former Alito clerks who know her personally and are very upset about this development."
In case that was too much trouble for the journalists, the firm also e-mailed out a statement from the Judicial Confirmation Network calling "for the abuse to stop."
...but for really getting to the bottom of a judicial nominee's fitness for the bench, not so much.
Clearly, Alito has the votes, albeit by the skin of his teeth, to make it through the Judiciary Committee and the full Senate. It's pretty clear, given the statements of most of the Republican "Gang of 14," that any attempt to filibuster will be met by the "changing the rules to break the rules" that lat year was called the nuclear option. There's no doubt in my mind, therefore, that Alito gets on the bench, one way or another.
What I want to look at is the political fallout from a filibuster. Democratic leaders are forever being framed as weak, ineffectual, unwilling to stand up for their principles. I don't know if there's a better opportunity to put forth party principles than in a Supreme Court nomination debate. You can do that without a filibuster, and you can draw distinctions and set up the game plan for future nominees and all the rest. But unless you're willing to pull the trigger, all the talk and debate will still be dismissed, in favor of the narrative of being weak and ineffectual. From a political standpoint the only way to counteract that is to stand on principle and say that "we won't accept a nominee who will move to upend our basic freedoms as Americans and subvert the government that has served us so well for 217 years."
What would the fallout from such an event look like? As I said, I think Bill Frist would immediately trigger the nuclear option. He has no choice; the theocratic right has the gun at his back. This would trigger a showdown in the Senate, and in a match between Harry Reid and Bill Frist, my money's on Reid. Anybody that writes this op-ed
in Tom DeLay's hometown newspaper is a fighter:
In 1977, I was appointed chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission. It was a difficult time for the gaming industry and Las Vegas, which were being overrun by organized crime. To that point in my life, I had served in the Nevada Assembly and even as lieutenant governor, but nothing prepared me for my fight with the mob.
Over the next few years, there would be threats on my life, bribes, FBI stings and even a car bomb placed in my family's station wagon. It was a terrifying experience, but at the end of the day, we cleaned up Las Vegas and ushered in a new era of responsibility.
My term on the gaming commission came to an end in 1981, and when it did, I thought I had seen such corruption for the last time. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. It is not quite the mafia of Las Vegas in the 1970s, but what is happening today in Washington is every bit as corrupt and the consequences for our country have been severe.
Our nation's capital has been overrun by organized crime — Tom DeLay-style.
Nobody frames the issue better than Harry Reid. And he's indicated
his concern over the nominee. Once the nuclear option is triggered, however, Alito becomes irrelevant. The story is about changing the rules of the Senate to break the rules of the Senate. I'm certain Reid will frame it in this way, and follow through on the threat he has always maintained: that he will make it damn near impossible to govern if the Senate carries this out.
How would this affect the midterms? Exceedingly little, I would say. There are few if any incumbent Democratic seats in play (especially if Ben Nelson of Nebraska is allowed by the caucus to go his own way on this). The wingnut faction who votes on choice and religion will always be out there, but by and large the Supreme Court is not a major issue in most elections. If it was you would have heard more about it in 2004. The notion of the Senate changing their rules to accomodate a Bush nominee plays right into the "culture of corruption and cronyism" narrative that the Dems are clearly pushing this fall.
I honestly don't see much of a political disadvantage to a filibuster. If the nuclear option is triggered, suddenly 60 senators are no longer needed to get judicial nominees through. It may even DEPRESS theocrat turnout, since you could no longer say "we need to get to 60." And it would portray Democrats as willing to stand up, willing to show a backbone, willing to fight.