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Are Senate Democrats Giving Alito a Pass?

I admit to being a little perplexed by the Democrats performance after two days of hearings. Fred Barnes on FOX News made the observation that on the Democratic side it looks like only Chuck Schumer came to play. If the political game, put in the most basic terms, is that Republicans want to see Alito get confirmed and Democrats want to see him blocked or defeated, after two days the Democrats are losing......badly. Liberal activists hoping that Democrats on the Judiciary Committee were going to score some points on Alito have to be profoundly disappointed going into day 3 of the hearings. Adam Liptak and Adam Nagourney’s news analysis for the New York Times paints the picture pretty well:

If Senate Democrats had set out to portray Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. as extreme on issues ranging from abortion to government surveillance of citizens, they ran up against an elusive target on Tuesday: Samuel A. Alito Jr. For nearly eight hours, Judge Alito was placid, monochromatic and, it seemed, mostly untouchable.

Unlike the testimony of John G. Roberts Jr., who had often declined to answer questions on various grounds, among them that certain issues might come before him as chief justice or that his older writings did not necessarily reflect his current views, Judge Alito's default impulse frequently seemed to be to try to give a direct response to the senators' often rambling questions.

Failing that, he offered what he presented as clarifications of earlier statements or writing, sanded of any rough edges, or said he simply could not recall details about some past chapter of his life that had raised concern among senators. Only in one exchange did he appear rattled, refusing to give a direct answer when Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York asked him if he still held a view, expressed in 1985, that there was no constitutional right to abortion.

For the most part, his handling of questions from Democrats had the effect of leaving his questioner shuffling through papers in search of the next question.

Barring a change of tactics that would have to come soon, it looks like Democrats are giving Alito a pass. I still wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a filibuster, but one would think that if the Democrats' plan was to filibuster, they would be making a more aggressive attempt to paint Alito as out of the mainstream with the hope of peeling away a few moderate Republicans and stiffening the spines of conservative Democrats.

What is interesting is when you look at the liberal blogs and what they are talking about, the energy is clearly not on Alito, and that should tell you a lot. I think the left-wing blogosphere is coalescing around the idea Bush and the Republicans are toast based on Abramoff, Iraq and the President’s spying on the American people. They correctly have determined that Alito is a losing battle for them and they are moving on. And I wonder if that is what we are seeing with Senate Democrats as well.

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