November 01, 2005

My Last Word on Alito

For those interested in the current controversy about the nomination of conservative judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, see this incisive op-ed piece in today's NYT by Ann Althouse, a/k/a my longtime ex-wife. She looks at his record of opinions, finding that equating him with arch-reactionary Justice Scalia may not be appropriate. More to the point, Ann as always analyzes the nomination from a legal perspective, not a political one, and this is a viewpoint that is unfortunately absent in most journalistic discussions.

The heart of the matter, according to this view, is not "Is he conservative or liberal?" but "Is he qualified to interpret the Constitution on the highest level?"

Commending Bush for nominating someone with a long judicial record to examine, Ann writes:

In the decades since the defeat of Robert Bork's nomination, presidents have unfortunately tended toward "stealth" nominees out of fear that actual evidence of the person's jurisprudence would only give ammunition to his opponents. Mr. Bush had followed that pattern: his thwarted nominee Harriet Miers had no serious constitutional law writings, and even Chief Justice John Roberts had only a handful of constitutional law cases from his two years on the bench.

Those Democrats who are already insisting that Judge Alito's record on the bench makes him unacceptable should keep in mind that someday they, too, will have a president with a Supreme Court seat to fill, and it would serve the country well if that president wasn't forced to choose only among candidates with no paper trail. To oppose Judge Alito because his record is conservative is to condemn us to a succession of bland nominees and to deprive future presidents of the opportunity to choose from the men and women who have dedicated long years to judicial work.

I have a lot of respect for this viewpoint, and you'll find it well-expressed from a layman's standpoint on this Ambivablog post today.