Judge Samuel Alito’s confirmation hearings to be a Supreme Court Justice start tomorrow at noon. He’s going to get a lot of questions about his “judicial philosophy,” particularly in light of some of the documents he created while working in the Reagan administration (I pulled out some pertinent excerpts here). Don’t be surprised if, as he’s been doing so far, he twists himself into a pretzel trying to explain why the opinions expressed in those documents aren’t his real views now, and maybe weren’t even then.
What a sorry spectacle that would be. We hear a lot from folks who want to see a conservative revolution in the judiciary about how important their ideas are, and how it’s the so-called liberals who have departed from the true meaning of the Constitution. And it may well be that Alito is one of them. (Or it may not, though if that’s the case the conservatives will be very unpleasantly surprised.)
But if these ideas are so important, and so right, why do the administration – and Judge Alito – frantically backpedal every time a new scrap of paper appears that seems to suggest that Alito might hold them? Wouldn’t it be nice to see someone stand up with the courage of his convictions, and say, hey, this is what I believe. If you don’t want to confirm me, that’s your right.
I hope that is the approach that Judge Alito takes. If he is a man of the integrity and character that his backers (of all political stripes) say he is, then let him state his judicial philosophy proudly, boldly, and specifically, at these hearings, and let the chips fall where they may. Maybe he and the administration are scared that if he shows his true colors, the Dems will filibuster him. And maybe they’re right. But I wouldn’t be surprised if honest, forthright answers picked up enough Democratic votes to head off a filibuster – not because the Democrats agreed with him, but because they respected his honest answers and they appreciated his willingness to restore some meaning to the confirmation process.
So come on, Sam: don’t be a chicken. Answer the questions. You’ll feel better about yourself, and you’ll probably give yourself a better shot at getting your dream job in the process.