Wednesday, January 11, 2006

American Republic is dying

Our American Republic is dying, have you noticed?

It only becomes one if Democrats internalize that defeat is inevitable. But even a defeat with a serious and principled fight is vastly preferable, on every level, to a defeat accompanied by the stench of fear and acquiescence.

January 11, 2006
The Verdict on Day Two... unanimous. The Democrats' chief media outlets, the New York Tmes and Washington Post, agree that the Dems barely landed a glove on Judge Sam Alito. The Post's article by Marcia Davis attributes this in part to the Democratic Senators' civility:

It was beginning to look as if the Democrats had shown up to a knife fight without a knife yesterday.***

In fact, most of the day was so quiet that by mid-afternoon you had Republicans such as Texas's John Cornyn going before reporters and essentially declaring victory.

The Times' piece, by Adam Liptak and Adam Nagourney, is headlined "Judge Alito Proves a Powerful Match for Senate Questioners":

If Senate Democrats had set out to portray Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. as extreme on issues ranging from abortion to government surveillance of citizens, they ran up against an elusive target on Tuesday: Samuel A. Alito Jr. For nearly eight hours, Judge Alito was placid, monochromatic and, it seemed, mostly untouchable.

The Times is openly disappointed in the Democrat Senators' performance:

For the most part, his handling of questions from Democrats had the effect of leaving his questioner shuffling through papers in search of the next question.***

To a large extent, Judge Alito's success at skating though a good deal of the day reflected the quality of the questioning. The senators frequently did not follow up on their own queries, and Mr. Biden in particular devoted most of his 30 minutes to talking, leaving little time for the nominee to speak.

Sounds like Liptak and Nagourney have been listening to Hugh Hewitt. As Hugh keeps pointing out, the Dems need for Alito to make a mistake, and it's hard for him to make a mistake when they're talking. The Times did find some encouragement in Chuck Schumer's efforts at the end of the day:

Mr. Schumer, whose questioning left Judge Alito looking wobbly and pale, was an exception....

I think it would be more accurate to say that by the close of Schumer's questioning, Judge Alito was looking "tired at the end of the day." In any event, the bottom line is clear: the Democrats accomplished nothing yesterday, and unless something unexpected happens today, Alito is cruising toward confirmation.
**** **** **** ****

Alito's Fantasy World
By Kate Michelma

The Boston Globe
Monday 09 January 2006

In the 1998 movie "Pleasantville," Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon play typical '90s kids who are inadvertently transported into the unreal reality of a 1950s sitcom. They use their '90s values to teach the sitcom world some lessons about diversity and tolerance.

Today many people have a stylized, "Pleasantville" vision of the pre-Roe era in which I grew up. They imagine fondly that almost all families had a Daddy at the office and a Mommy in the kitchen; that almost all family relations were well-ordered and unthreatening; in short, that life looked like "Leave It to Beaver" - and that, with a few legal adjustments, it could do so again.

The conservative movement has spent the last 20 years working to roll back social progress and make this fantasy a reality. It is time to stop seeing the fate of Roe as a Beltway parlor game. What really hangs in the balance in the Supreme Court nomination of Samuel Alito are the fundamental rights to privacy, dignity, and autonomy - rights that transcend partisan politics, shape the course of our daily lives, and lie at the heart of who we are as Americans.

Conservative ideologues are simply wrong about the 1950s. Fans of the decade seldom mention that, with women's autonomy and earning power severely limited, poverty was a constant threat. According to the Census Bureau, in those days almost 20 percent of American families lived in poverty, as did more than 40 percent of families headed by women - in both cases, roughly double today's rates.

Doctors and social workers were reluctant to report child or spousal abuse, and many women died from unsafe abortions each year.

I know, for I grew up imagining a "Leave It to Beaver" future for myself.

But when my husband abandoned our marriage, I fell overnight from stay-at-home mother of three to single pregnant welfare parent. To support my family, I faced hurdles I had never imagined: the difficult decision not to continue the pregnancy, the humiliating interview with a hospital board seeking to prove me "unfit" to have a child in order to have a "therapeutic" abortion and avoid the back alleys, and the requirement to seek the permission of the man who deserted me and my family. Still, I was fortunate - many women in my situation had no choice but to seek illegal abortions, and too many died as a result.

We have traveled too far since then to even imagine a return to those conditions.

Samuel Alito's public record shows unequivocally that he is out of step with Americans on each of those fundamental issues - that he has chosen to reside in a 1950s that never really was, rather than the new century in which the rest of us live.

He believes that the state needs to assist women in recognizing the moral dimensions of their decisions - not only abortion but the forms of birth control, such as the Pill and the IUD, that are the most effective ways to prevent unwanted pregnancy. He sought to uphold abortion restrictions that would have treated a grown married woman no differently from a child, forcing her to notify her husband in all circumstances, including abuse and rape, before obtaining an abortion.

As Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote in her decision overturning these restrictions, "Women do not lose their constitutionally protected liberty when they marry." Judge Alito seems not to have grasped this fundamental fact of modern American life.

Alito seems as well not to think much of women's constitutionally protected right to equality in the workplace - a right that women today take for granted.

He has repeatedly sought to limit women's right to fight employment discrimination in the courts, even in the most extreme cases, intervening where juries had already found in favor of a woman. He has opposed the affirmative action initiatives that opened the doors for a generation of women and minorities. He seems not to have believed women and minorities deserved equal access to his own educational institution, Princeton University.

Since the Constitution was framed, Americans have understood the right to privacy as fundamental to human dignity and freedom. Yet it appears that this is a core American value that Judge Alito does not share.

In December we learned of Judge Alito's low opinion of privacy rights for all Americans - as exemplified by his eagerness to help the Reagan administration chip away at protections against government eavesdropping.

Today our privacy rights are under threat in arenas very far from the doctor's office. It is against this backdrop that women and men whose views on politics differ profoundly - but who share the belief that part of the genius of the American way is its preservation of a personal sphere where government's writ cannot reach - should view Judge Alito's nomination.

Senators should reach across party and ideological lines to reject the Alito nomination, not because we think he will vote to overturn Roe, but because we know he will not respect the dignity and autonomy that are a central part of what it means to be American - for all of us.

Kate Michelman is former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America and author of the just published With Liberty and Justice for All: A Life Spent Protecting the Right to Choose.


Democrats cannot meekly accept defeat on Alito

The Democrats are a party in urgent need of a good fight. And the Alito nomination presents the perfect opportunity for Democrats to demonstrate that they are willing to wage a real battle for the things they believe in. Two core Democratic principles, at least, are at stake in these hearings, and are clearly threatened by the Alito nomination:

(1) whether we live in a country where the President has the right to declare himself to be above the law and can freely violate whatever laws he wants; and, (2) whether the privacy rights which are the bedrock of individual liberty in this country will be decimated by the Supreme Court, thereby returning us to the days where women were prohibited by the state from having abortions and where the Federal Government is able to intervene in our lives and restrict our liberties in the most personal and private spheres, from our most intimate relationships to the way we die.

If Democrats are unwilling to fight for these principles, what are they willing to fight for? And if Democrats crawl away from this battle, meekly convincing themselves before even engaging it that they are destined to lose and therefore shouldn’t even bother to try, how can Democrats possibly object when they are perceived as being weak, irresolute, and afraid of taking a stand for their beliefs?

All circumstances have come together to make this the perfect opportunity to fight. The President is weak and unpopular. His party is engulfed by scandal. The nominee is stiff, unlikeable, and even vaguely creepy; he looks and smells liberty-infringing. And the President just got caught breaking the law on purpose and then claimed in the most Nixonesqe manner possible that he has the right to violate the law.

And those are exactly the issues at stake in this hearing. Democrats should be frothing at the mouth to engage this fight. It couldn’t have been scripted better. There are great benefits to gained from this fight even if Alito ends up being confirmed. There is certainly more to be gained by a principled fight than there is to be gained by meekly and impotently accepting defeat without a fight, and thereby looking yet again like the nice, good losers.

Most Americans pay virtually no attention to Washington except when the big events occur. We should want Americans to pay attention to what this Administration is doing right now and should therefore crave a big event in order to capture their attention. If there is a real war over Alito -- rather than some pompous Senatorial ceremony where his confirmation is pre-ordained -- then Americans will pay attention.

Such a fight will give Democrats the opportunity to make clear that this President has been breaking the law because he literally believes -- and his Administration has said -- that he has the power to do so. And he is now trying to pack the judiciary with nominees who have only one thing in common: they have a history of great deference to presidential power because, like George Bush, they are believers in an unchecked Executive.

What is at stake with this nomination is whether we are going to have a country that endorses and allows George Bush’s theory that the permanent war we are fighting gives him the right to violate whatever laws he wants to violate. All indications are that Alito is at the very extreme fringe when it comes to deference to Presidential authority and power -- exactly what is most dangerous for the country right now. A country where the President can break the law and claims the power to do so is an extreme and radical situation -- at least for the United States -- but this is what Sam Alito represents and it is why he was chosen by George Bush for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.

And yet many Democrats are declaring defeat before a stand is even taken and then, based on the defeat they’ve imposed on themselves, urging that no fight be waged. Thus, we are told by the always-calculating, rarely-impassioned strategists to simply give in to the "fatalism" of defeat, and to accept the proposition that Democrats are not "well-positioned to fight," and therefore shouldn’t even try. Ken Mehlman wholeheartedly agrees.

The central flaw with this defeatist mindset, beyond the image of weakness and soullessness which it projects, is that it spawns self-fulfilling prophecies. We are told not to fight because we will lose. In reality, the reverse is true: we lose precisely because we do not fight. The Alito nomination is far too valuable an opportunity to squander it with this same mistake.

The NSA law-breaking scandal perfectly illustrates this sad dynamic. For instance, Kevin Drum yesterday worried greatly that the NSA scandal is "a legitimately tough issue for Democrats." But it shouldn’t be, and it really isn't. George Bush broke the law, has vowed to our faces that he will continue to do so, and made clear that all of this is based on the theory that he is above the law. On both principled and strategic grounds, there is no issue that could possibly be more compelling for Democrats to take a stand.

But most prominent Democrats haven’t taken a stand. They have been afraid to make this case to the public. In the same post where Kevin worried about what a tough sell this issue supposedly is, he actually strained himself so severely to avoid saying that George Bush broke the law that he actually pushed himself into language so tepid that it became literally inaccurate, requiring a correction by Mark Kleinman.

Kevin is not alone. Again and again, when Democrats have spoken on the issue of Bush’s law-breaking, they have done so with statements so apologetic, half-hearted and diluted that they are almost impossible to comprehend. Most prominent Democrats have literally been afraid for some reason even to tell the public that Bush broke the law, let alone make clear the dangers that this Administration poses as a result of its theories.

If Bush opponents themselves are afraid to make the case that George Bush broke the law and that his claim to unlimited law-breaking power is a profound danger to our republic, then of course the public will not sufficiently appreciate or understand the point. And that’s the sad and vicious cycle that plays out time and again. Certain Democrats convince themselves that the public doesn’t agree with them on a certain issue, and as a result, they decide that they can’t fight on that issue. But the reason the public doesn’t agree is precisely because Democrats are afraid to make the case.

It's way past time to break that cycle, and the Alito hearing is the ideal place to begin. A filibuster will bring intense public attention to this nomination and will allow Democrats to clearly articulate what is at stake in our country and to show Americans they are willing to fight. Both of those benefits are immeasurable and desperately needed for both Democrats and for the country, regardless of whether the filibuster is successful. And for those needing assurances in advance that they can win, these polls should provide more than sufficient comfort.

A defeat is not remotely a foregone conclusion here.

It only becomes one if Democrats internalize that defeat is inevitable. But even a defeat with a serious and principled fight is vastly preferable, on every level, to a defeat accompanied by the stench of fear and acquiescence.

The Democrats need to use this opportunity to clearly articulate and revitalize the basic principles which motivate the party, and it’s hard to imagine a better opportunity for doing so than a full-scale devotion to preventing the lifetime ascension of Sam Alito to the swing seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

--Glenn Greenwald

It only becomes one if Democrats internalize that defeat is inevitable. But even a defeat with a serious and principled fight is vastly preferable, on every level, to a defeat accompanied by the stench of fear and acquiescence.


Post a Comment

<< Home