Getting a Sense on the Opposition to Alito

After the opening statements today, I spent some time wandering around the press conference area in the Hart Senate building. I was able to talk to the Presidents of two major advocacy organizations and ask them about their idea of success for the hearings. There were the obvious concerns about making Alito answer the questions he was asked, making sure that the Democratic Senators asked the right questions, informing he American public about Alito's freeperesque record as a judge, etc. After a little egging, and because they knew I was a blogger and not a "regular" journalist (although it was hard to tell the difference when I was in the press conference area), I was able to coax a little bit of more direct information out of them.

The first President I talked with wouldn't say "filibuster," and instead relied upon the term "opposition." However, she indicated that she felt the best possible scenario would be if Alito said things during the hearings that directly contradicted his record. This struck me a smart, because it was really the only remaining avenue where Alito's nomination could face serious trouble without a filibuster even being necessary.

The second President I talked to was somewhat more direct in her support of a filibuster of Alito, as she indicated that the goal was to stop him from being confirmed, and there was no reason to take any option off the table. This isn't a direct quote, but the general gist I took from it was that if a filibuster was the only available means of stopping Alito, then filibuster it would have to be.

These two interviews, combined with private conversations I have had with staffers from several other advocacy organizations, have made it seem to me that within the progressive advocacy world there is far more serious and determined opposition to Alito than there was against Roberts. Back then, I couldn't get anyone down here to even tell me in private that they thought filibustering Roberts was a good idea. The general sentiment was that we needed to force more answers out of Roberts, and rack up as many "no" votes as possible in order to change the composition of the next nomination. By contrast, this time the mood is definitely that we need to stop this geeky, lying freeper, and if that means the filibuster, well then that means the filibuster.

I have no idea if this sentiment is shared among Senate staff on the Hill, but I do know that I will spend much of my time tomorrow trying to find out. Also, while there is much more determined opposition to Alito than there was to Roberts, that still doesn't mean that we are going to be able to get the 41 votes necessary. If things go our way--and judging by Alito's stunningly nervous and uncomfortable performance in front of the cameras today they just might--this could end up being the biggest political fight Washington has seen in a couple years.

Of we might only get something like 32 "no" votes and nothing happens. Stay tuned...

The Goal of the Alito Hearings

I am in DC today, as I will be for the rest of the week. While I am down here, one of the main things I will be working on is to defeat the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

I want to make that last sentence clear. I believe the Democratic goal for the Alito hearings should be to defeat his nomination through a filibuster of 41 votes or more, and then to defeat the nuclear option with a vote of 51 votes or more. Samuel Alito is an unacceptable choice to sit on the Supreme Court of the United States.

This is my belief and my goal, and I write this without representing any group or elected official in Washington DC.

I don't care if a filibuster of Alito results in Republicans successfully triggering the nuclear option. Blocking an unacceptable nominee to the Supreme Court is the main reason why we need the filibuster for judicial nominees. If we can't use it in order to save it, it is worthless. I also don't fear any significant public backlash in the event of a Democratic-led filibuster, as enough of the country already opposes Alito's confirmation to prevent any significant political repercussions for Democrats. If anything, I believe Republicans will have more severe political repercussions for using the nuclear option at the start of the legislative session just before the State of the Union address. Further, I always thought it would be fun to see the Democratic response to the destruction of the filibuster, which Harry Reid outlined back in April.

Given all of this, I am not going to blog these hearings the same way that I blogged the Roberts hearings back in September. This week, it is going to be more about vote counting, about protests, about linking to as many progressive bloggers on Alito as possible, and about all of the other things that will be taking place as part of the effort to prevent Alito from being confirmed. I will be in connection with a lot of people down here, and I will try and give you a sense of what it is like to be here yourself.

I'll be blogging all day on Alito Tuesday and Wednesday. Check out Dragonball Yee for some photos and a first-person write up of the protests at Justice Sunday yesterday.

Live-blogging the Hearings

(Bumped -- Scott)

Chris is in DC, and he's liveblogging the hearings.  Today there's not that much interesting stuff, just introductions.

Reddhedd has a great round-up of coverage.  Pay special attention to the video segment of this Washington Post article where he endorses the Meese-led Reagan Justice Department.  These guys were extreme freepers.  And Alito said he shared their legal views.

UPDATE: I misunderstood. Apparently Chris is liveblogging the hearings tomorrow and Wednesday and will have a recap later today. Reddhedd at Firedoglake is liveblogging.

Using Alito to Deflect Attention from Abramoff

It looks like the White House is up to its old tricks again these days. Just as the screws are beginning to turn against the Republican Party for its legal woes and ethical lapses, President Bush has signalled that he will try to turn the nation's attention towards the battle over a judicial nomination, as Mike Allen and Matthew Cooper note towards the end of their article on Bush's relationship with Tom DeLay in this week's issue of Time magazine.

Republican officials say they are so worried about the Abramoff problem that they are now inclined to stoke a fight with Democrats over the confirmation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court in an effort to turn the page from the lobbying investigation. Outside groups plan to spend heavily, and the White House will engage in some tit for tat with Democrats as the hearings heat up. This tactic is nothing new for the Bush White House. In July 2005, just as the media began to place increased focus on the investigation into the Valerie Plame leak (it emerged that Karl Rove had spoken with Matt Cooper about Plame, Judith Miller went to jail, and, Bush shifted his position on firing those implicated), Bush announced the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court. Just over two months later, during the same week in which House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was indicted for conspiracy and money laundering and the Security and Exchange Commission commenced a probe into potential insider trading by Senate Majority Leader, President Bush hastily announced that he had nominated Harriet Miers to serve on the Supreme Court.

While it certainly would be unwise to lay down on Samuel Alito without a fight at this moment -- it is essential that Democrats and progressives ensure that a rabid conservative is not allowed to dictate his views from the Supreme Court -- just the same, it would be a strategic mistake to allow President Bush to distract Americans from serious Republican problems. Undoubtedly, a balance can be found between the two to ensure that a sufficient fight is put up against Alito while at the same time the public is educated about the degree to which Washington has become compromised under Republican control.

The Alito Polling Myth

Sometimes it's necessary to beat a dead horse. This is one of those times. Lately, I've been reading over and over again that the public polling is in favor of Sam Alito's confirmation. As Armando noted earlier, this morning's New York Times article on the hearings is the latest example.

But the polls work in Judge Alito's favor; they have found that a majority of Americans support his confirmation.

Now, that is one seriously shaky statement. And yet, in the traditional media, it's somehow become conventional wisdom. It seems to be based on the latest Washington Post polling of December 15-18 that indicated 54% in favor of confirmation and 28% opposed, with 19% having no opinion. Fair enough. That's why I call it a shaky statement and not an outright falsity.

But as I mentioned earlier this week, the Post poll is not the only recent source of numbers on Alito. The Wall Street Journal poll had 34% in favor, 34% unsure, and 31% opposed. Again, I would hardly characterize those results as working in Alito's favor, when just as many are on the fence as are in favor and nearly as many are flat-out opposed.

Reviewing other recent polls at Polling Report confirms that this supposed groundswell of public support for Sam Alito just doesn't exist. I'm not saying the polling won't necessarily shift in Alito's favor, but to say that it already has is inaccurate. For example, in early-mid December, both Fox and NBC found that Alito isn't yet on most people's radar. Fox's polling indicated that 38% had never heard of Alito. And NBC found 48% saying that they didn't know enough about Alito to support or oppose his confirmation.

It seems to me that most people, to their credit, seem to be withholding their judgement of Alito until the hearings. The Republicans are already playing the expectations management game, saying that Alito won't perform as well in the hearings as John Roberts. Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter characterized the situation well, saying that Alito has "more targets" in his background than Roberts did.

The polling on Alito's confirmation is likely to move with the start of the hearings. And though I can't claim to know which way, I'm guessing downward as the connections between Alito's opinions and contentious issues like privacy and governmental power will become more clear to the casual observer.

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