Monday, January 09, 2006

Kuttner on Alito

Robert Kuttner pens what may be the worst op-ed I have ever read in a major American newspaper. (Well, maybe not, I'm just going with the theme he sets in the title). It is rich in baseless ad hominems and fruitless speculation, but quite short on substance. Read on:

He begins with this astute observtation.
AT THIS moment in American history, it would be hard to find a worse Supreme Court nominee than Samuel A. Alito Jr. His ideology captures everything extremist about the Bush administration. If confirmed, Alito would serve as Bush's enabler. He would give Bush effective control of all three branches of government and the hard-right long-term dominance of the high court. His confirmation or rejection will depend on the gumption of the Senate Democratic leadership and independence of a few Republicans.
It actually gets worse from there. Of course Kuttner is never able to actually back up his claims, but he does well to continue making baseless charges throughout the piece. One can actually almost visualize the froth cooming from his mouth as he writes:
Alito's apologists insist that his views from the mid-1980s, when he worked at the Reagan White House, do not reflect his current conception of the law. But in a speech to the Federalist Society in November 2000, while a sitting appellate judge, Alito claimed almost limitless powers for the presidency and criticized other courts for limiting executive power. The president has not just some executive power, he declared, but the executive power - the whole thing.
This, he then writes, indicates Alito favors an "almost monarchic execuitve." Umm, no. He is conflating two different things. What Alito seems to suggest is that the President as head of the Executve Branch is in fact in control of all the executive branch. And, amazingly, Alito might have some justification for this view. In this ancient document called the Constitution of the United States, there's an article - Article II, for those constitutional scholars - that begins: "The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America." Now, we can certainly debate the extent to which the Preisdent ought to delegate some of those executive functions, but clearly he is set up to be the executive branch. There might be some disagreement as concerns independent agencies such as the FTC, but an argument can be made that they represent a de fact fourth branch of government that is only nominally under Executive control. But as far as executive functions go, the claim Alito makes is quite unremarkable and is well-grounded in the the constitutional language and in the intent of the Framers. Now if the President aims to disband Congress and assume all legislative functions, Kuttner would then have a point. For the sake of his credibility, here's hoping Bush makes such a move and Alito backs him up.
Oddly, while Alito favors an almost monarchic executive, he believes the federal government has limited powers to protect the health and safety of Americans or safeguard the environment. Alito and and his compatriots in the Federalist Society are critical of the Supreme Court's holding since 1937 that Congress, under the Constitution's commerce clause, may regulate to assure everything from a safe and healthy workplace to honest financial markets. According to University of Chicago professor Cass Sunstein and the watchdog group People for the American Way, Alito has written the largest number of dissents of any judge sitting on the conservative Third Circuit Court of Appeals, and over 90 percent of his dissents were more conservative than those of his colleagues.
Mon Dieu! Do you mean to tell me that Alito and those nasty conservatives actuually don't think that the federal government has all sorts of expansive powers that permits it to regulate every aspect of American life? Why, you'd think that there was some sort of document that delineates the powers and limits thereof of the federal government, and any action taken by the government not within the confines of said document would be illegitimate. Wait, there is such a document? Oh, it's that Constitution thing again. Darn that thing, it just keeps propping up whenever a leftie wants to make an argument.
With the Bush administration running roughshod over individual rights,
Yes, there's that evil Bush man running wild on our individual liberties. I remember the day when people still had the right to worship - or not to at all - at the religious institution of their choosing, when they had the right to bear arms, when they had the right to write silly columns bashing the President of the United States and get in printed in a newspaper and then have it be read by people all over the world thanks to the internet. Shoot, you mean to tell me people still have all those rights? Gosh darn, you'd almost think Kuttner would get one of these things right.
Alito has tended to support prosecutors and corporations
Corporations? Booo. Hisss.
over individual citizens and employees, in cases involving civil liberties, civil rights, workplace rights, and reproductive freedom. In 1985, he wrote that he thought the Constitution ''does not protect the right to an abortion," flatly contradicting Roe v. Wade.

Because as we all the know the Supreme Court is infallible, and Alito's idea that there really isn't any right to an abortion anywhere in the Constitution makes him some sort of evil conservative vampire sucking the lifeblood of our republic away. Of course by Kuttner's own logic it makes Justice Ginberg out to be some sort of monstrous devil, because she wasn't too keen on there being any such right in the Constitution, well at least before she donned black robes.
And with corruption scandals festering in Washington, Alito conveniently forgot his pledge to recuse himself from cases in which he had a personal financial interest.

And I guess Kuttner forgot to read the dozens of articles and other information that has been released that explains why this is really nothing more than a desperate talking point from an increasingly desperate political party.

Having now demonstrated that he has no grasp on the Constitution of the United States or an ability to keep up with current affairs, Kuttner flails away in a fun game of ad hominem attack. Let's see if we can all count together the number of times Kuttner uses the word extreme, extremist, or some similar fear-induciing word as he closes out this Pulitzer-worthy piece:
Despite the repeated setbacks to the Bush administration and its allies and Alito's own far-right record, most observers expect him to be confirmed. Blocking Alito would take a filibuster supported by at least 41 senators. Though the Democrats have 45 senators (counting independent Bernie Sanders), the Senate Democratic leadership frets that a filibuster would divert attention from other Republican woes, might make Democrats look obstructionist, and might lead Republicans to use the so-called ''nuclear option," abolishing filibusters on judicial nominations.

Yet, in their weakened condition, it's not clear that Republicans could muster the votes to go nuclear. Moderate Senate Republicans may just welcome a chance to distance themselves from Bush's extremism -- if Democrats lead. Alito epitomizes everything dangerous about George W. Bush. Unlike Bush, he would not be gone in three years. With some leadership and profiles in courage, we may yet be spared an extremist high court.
Yep, that's some good ole fashioned writing. Just throw every ad hominem you possibly can in as short a period of time, and maybe you can convince the American public that they should actually listen to you. It hasn't worked for five years, and it is not about to work now.


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