I haven't offered any (overtly) political comments, on this blog, for awhile; perhaps you thought I wasn't feeling well. Rather, I've been busy, which is nice.
Several topics merit some comment: the confirmation of Alito, the President's "State of the Union" address Tuesday night, and Rep. John Boehner's elevation to Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Justice Alito. I agree with my classmate and brother priest, Father Larry Gearhart, (read him at his blog, Eyes of Faith) who noted in his ascerbic fashion, "this chicken has not yet hatched," but "hope is not yet ill-founded. "
Even so, I endorsed Alito; I would have preferred Edith Jones, but Alito was a very good choice; far better than Harriet Miers, and better than Roberts, precisely because we knew more about Alito's fundamental philosophy.
I can't help recalling the dire predictions many made, back last summer; that someone like Alito would result in a terrible battle, that unless the White House had to engage in a lot of deal-making and arm-twisting, they'd have a devil of a time getting him through; meanwhile, the Left could fire at will, and who knows what mischief they could bring about?
I wrote in this space on September 7: ". . . the sort of political fight--such as a Supreme Court pick (or a tax bill)--that Bush is supposedly "too weak" to pursue right now, is exactly what he needs--what will strengthen him..."
On September 19, I opined,
I think we need to insist, rather loudly, that President Bush's next nominee be someone whose position on "privacy" is clear-cut. Oh, of course the opposition will howl and threaten; they did so when Rehnquist, on record against Roe, was nominated as Chief Justice, yet he was confirmed. Yes, it'll be a battle; but unless the President nominates someone on record pro-Roe, it'll be a battle anyway; why not have someone worth fighting for; someone who will energize prolifers, too?
Well, now we can look back and see how things played out...
Alito veritably sailed through; politically, the opposition took some serious hits; Sen. Ted Kennedy continues to prove himself the most valuable Senator to both sides -- he's extremely effective for his side, but he does worlds of good for the Children of Light as well, as a bogeyman. His hounding of Mrs. Alito from the room, in tears, followed by his bellowing, purple-faced, on the floor of the Senate last week, could not have been better scripted by, well, me.
The filibuster was not ruined, as the muddle-headed GOP seemed willing to consider doing last year. (I have a feeling they may have thought better of their enthusiasm for wrecking this great bulwark of liberty. And while I'm on the subject, if there's one monument that really ought to be erected in Washington, it is a monument to the Filibuster. I'll donate $100.)
Indeed, the filibuster was a filifizzle, for precisely the reasons I've said in the past, and why we shouldn't tamper with it: a filibuster cannot be sustained in the face of something the people demand. So either a filibuster pursues an end that the public wants, or it may be something not enough care about.
Which means that the collapse of the filibuster against Alito can mean but one thing: the politicians knew which way the wind was blowing on this nomination. Which explains why Senator Kennedy looked like he was going to explode (a sight I enjoyed thoroughly, although I would have felt guilty if he had, really).
So what do we learn?
The argument that we need stealthy nominees falls. Roberts was stealthy; Alito not. Difference? One got confirmed by a wider margin. Oh well. Alito is just as confirmed.
And you know what? Think he feels good about what the Left tried to do to him? Did he look like a man who would care what they might say about him in the future? Unlike that esteemed jurist, Justice Anthony "What did the Post say about me today?" Kennedy, who is probably luxuriating in the prospect of being the "swing vote" for awhile. Reminds me of St. Thomas More's line from "A Man for All Seasons": "Richard, but for Wales?
The whole "political capital" theory is worthless. Note bene: with Bush's poll numbers in the 30s, you have to say his so-called "political capital" (as usually measured) was pretty thin. So, if the "he can't spend his capital" theory folks were right, Alito should have been toast -- finito!
The truth is, Alito and what he stood for, was Bush's "political capital" -- i.e., by picking a fight with the Left, around which Bush's allies could mobilize, wouldn't "cost" him capital -- it gained it for him!
In short, this was the play that should be run the next time -- if Bush gets another pick as many hope.
The State of the Union. Did Bush learn the lesson? After listening to his speech the other night, I wonder. It was mostly mush, moderated by the fact that it was less-ambitious mush. Ethanol has been a scandal of vast proportions beyond Jack Abrahamoff, but no one will go to jail for it, although in my opinion, hundreds of Senators and Congressmen deserve the pokey for that boondoggle. You might think that cabal in D.C., the greedy and the shameless, have milked the Ethanol thing for all they could, ah but here comes the Prez, riding to their rescue: we can make ethanol from wood chips! That'll save the day!
One of the talking heads on TV the other night said it best: it looks like Alito will be Bush's greatest domestic accomplishment.
John Boehner. I am disappointed, although I haven't touched base with my sources in the VRWC* to see what they think. I liked what I heard from Shadegg.
Rep. Boehner does not look, to me, as anything really new or different; just a fresh version of the same old, same old.
I have to tell you, I got disillusioned about the feckless Congressional GOP during the Clinton Administration, so I've gotten used to this mess. Back then, our hero was Rep. Dick Armey, who really was a hero to the Right. Then he went all native once he came under the spell -- or thumb -- of that human Trojan Horse, Newt Gingrich. It wasn't long before Dick Armey was muscling through pork-barrel spending, and squashing votes on conservative issues -- the exact opposite of what he stood for, and practiced, when he was our hero.
So Boehner looks to be another (bad) Dick Armey, without the consolation of thinking, perhaps the old, good Dick Armey is still there, somewhere.
One bit of evidence: when Boehner was merely a Congressman, he said he'd vote for a National Right to Work Act. Guess what he did, once he became chairman of the committee with jurisdiction? Squashed the bill! Won't let it out of committee; won't hold a vote; won't hold hearings, on the bill he once vowed to help pass.
Will conservative voters turn out this fall to help the GOP? The Senators gave them reason to; has the House?
Stay tuned . . .
*Vast, Right-Wing Conspiracy