for a moment the question of whether the editors at the Journal
or the Post might have sneaked a peak at the other guy's
answer sheet -- or the more diabolical question of whether the
mainstream press, whether it be anchored on the right or on the
left, is ordering off the same menu. Those are questions for another
we ought to pause to wonder whether the ideological battles the
Journal and Post say are coming are good for
times when many people think they're not. In the middle of a conventional
and a particularly divisive war, perhaps. When the nation is facing
the imminent danger of a terrorist attack, almost certainly. When
the nation is recovering from the unimaginable grief of a signature
disaster like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina, probably.
the consensus choice for new chief justice comfortably on the
bench -- so comfortable that it is almost tempting to think that
John G. Roberts Jr. has been studying for the role for a lifetime
-- and with the floodwaters (but not the recriminations) receding
from the Gulf Coast, it might be time for the sort of fight that
makes politicians sort out what they think and where they stand.
of Harriet Miers to the high court was designed to avoid just
such an eventuality. The White House -- or, more precisely, the
chief tenant of the White House, for there is no evidence that
there was even a second person in Washington who thought Ms. Miers
was an astute choice for the bench -- calculated that she was
so blank a screen that politicians of both sides would project
their own prejudices onto her. Instead, they projected their own
insecurities, and the blank spaces were swiftly filled with doubts,
doubts that doomed her nomination far earlier than the president
and his nominee realized.
no danger in November that the passacaglia of October will be
repeated: a stately set of dreary meetings with senators who could
barely conceal their contempt followed by bouquets of contrived
compliments and professions of an open mind. Judge Alito has judicial
accomplishments, a record and a clear ideology. No one has to
testify that, down deep, he's not shallow.
once the source of glee and despair among lawmakers, partisans
and interest groups. No tabula rasa here. The fellow has views
on abortion, and views on personal privacy, and before he's done
he's going to have to explain how he squares his view on abortion
in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Carey
with his views on privacy growing out of Griswold v. Connecticut.
And before the conspiracy theorists in the blog world conclude
that the press, being ardent supporters of abortion rights, are
going to hate this guy, consider that he may well emerge as a
fierce ally of free expression, which is supposed to be the issue
we typists care about most.
day the chorus on the right was singing the same song: It's about
time the Bush White House picked a fight with its enemies instead
of with its friends. Presidents often do the opposite, as conservatives
accused Mr. Bush (he of the big spending in Louisiana and the
wimpy nomination of Ms. Miers) of doing all autumn.
But the president
didn't do that this time. He nominated pretty much the kind of
conservative he promised conservatives he would nominate.
Now we encounter
the question of the moment, whether an all-out fight over Judge
Alito is something to welcome. There's a pocket of people who
think it isn't, that the country is contentious enough and that
the last thing we need right now (you will hear that exact phrase
many times before the Alito nomination reaches the Senate chamber)
is a big fight about abortion and original intent and super-precedents
and civil liberties.
that is exactly what we need, and by we I mean all of us.
We are in
year five of a presidency. There is no heir apparent (and if there
were, the armor of the apparent heir apparent, Dick Cheney, is
chinked right now). Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats
have the slightest idea whom they want to nominate in primaries
that will be getting under way in about two years, which is closer
than it sounds. That is because neither the Republicans nor the
Democrats have the slightest idea what profile they want to present
to the American people as sunset approaches on the Bush Years,
is weary, you say. It has been wearier. The country is impatient
with politics, you argue. It has been more impatient. The country's
a mess right now. It's been a mess before, and we've gotten through
But a good
clean fight about things that matter might be just what we all
need. It is certainly what the Republicans, who can't figure out
what conservatism means, need. And it is certainly what the Democrats,
who can't figure out whether they are liberals anymore, need.
A good fight might clarify the mind.
we hand the gloves to the pugilists, here's a viewer's guide:
Ignore the special-interest pleaders and moaners; their pleas
and moans were scripted long before Mr. Bush made his choice,
and they are as predictable as the spring. Watch the Republican
moderates, especially Olympia J. Snowe of Maine and especially
not Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island. She's of sound judgment, he's
not, and she's a good barometer of common sense. But most of all,
forget the inside-the-chamber handicapping; Harry A. Blackmun
was supposed to be Warren E. Burger. He turned out to be Harry
justices have a way of doing that.