Thursday, November 03, 2005

Sam Alito: Two, make that Three Quickies

Two of the first things I read about Sam Alito’s Supreme Court nomination were, while not profound, kinda funny.

The first has to do with my nomination conspiracy theories. Like any conspiracy theory worthy of the name, the part about the Miers nomination being phony from the beginning as a long-prepared distraction is completely untestable. The testable part of my prediction—that the new nominee would be announced on Friday, the same day as the Libby indictment—turned out to be wrong. But that’s only because the White House realized that not even the American people could be fooled by so direct and crass an attempt to keep the indictment of a White House official out of the news. With Rove dodging the bullet, and lingering coverage of the Miers withdrawal the day before as a mitigating factor, they decided they’d be better off with one very bad news day on Friday than with charges of being completely craven in their manipulation of news cycle. Then they could start fresh on Monday, announcing Alito’s nomination before anyone woke up, and dominate the coverage the entire week.

Anyway, to get to the first point (I guess that hasn’t been so quick after all): The timing of the nomination has in fact been effective in submerging the indictments, for which I offer two pieces of evidence, one official and one funny. Quoth the Washington Post regarding the Democrats’ motivation for their closed session stunt: “Democrats were dismayed that President Bush made no apologies after the indictment and that his naming of a new Supreme Court nominee Monday knocked the Libby story off many front pages.” It’s a point made more incisively, however, by the very first thing I read about Alito’s nomination: the rules of this drinking game.

The second amusing thing I read about Alito that first day was the very end of Monday morning’s Washington Post story, a point that should thrill religious social conservatives everywhere:
In the area of church and state, Alito has been consistently supportive of the conservative view that the courts should be more accommodating when considering state entanglement with religion. He wrote a majority opinion in ACLU v. Schundler, holding that a city's holiday display that included a creche and menorah did not violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment because it included secular symbols as well, such as Frosty the Snowman.
Wow! Able to demolish the ACLU with Frosty the Snowman! Now that’s what I call a badass conservative judge. Imagine the good for humanity he could do if he were teamed with Spiderman, or Batman and Robin, or the Fantastic Four!

Bonus third quickie, an entire article actually, since it took me several days to get around to writing this: today’s Washington Post amasses piles of anecdotes from his Senate courtesy calls that lead to a devastating conclusion: Sam Alito is a nerd, big time. Even though “Washington is a town of geeks and misfits who, for the most part, suppress their inner dorks much of the time,” Alito apparently stands out, especially in contrast to John Roberts:
Alito has the disadvantage of following John Roberts, who was just as smart but carried himself like a big man on campus: athletic build, quick humor and good looks. Compared with Roberts, Alito looks as if he were in town for a “Star Trek” convention.
While the piece seems to be regrettably tainted by (male) reporter Dana Milbank’s evident mancrush on John Roberts, we can nevertheless be grateful for this stellar example of the elite media’s serious and insightful coverage of this critical confirmation process.


Whether it's Katherine Harris or Linda Tripp or Sam Alito, the press sometimes seems obsessed with what Republicans look like. (I don't remember anyone talking about how Ginsberg like this when she was nominated.) 

Comment by DKL | 11/03/2005 07:56:00 PM  

DKL, I've never thought of that, but you're right. Strange! 

Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 11/03/2005 10:26:00 PM  

DKL, you can't forget the bizarre coverage of whether or not John Kerry looks French. This is a blade that can at least occasionally cut both ways... 

Comment by RoastedTomatoes | 11/04/2005 01:18:00 AM  

RoastedTomatoes, thanks for stopping by. John Kerry looking "French" is a great example, one I found hilarious at the time, and one that seemed to be effective. It's funny how such imagery can be so powerful, as also in another example by Republicans against a Democrat: the portrayal of Michael Dukakis as a wimp, looking ridiculous sitting in a tank with a helmet on. It can also be used to one's favor, as with Bush in the flight suit, which made a favorable impression at the time.

Perhaps all this reveals our continuing taste for strong, charismatic alpha males as leaders---an evolutionary hangover that remains long after its true utility in our ancestors' hunter/gatherer beginnings has passed us by... (I'm falling, as usual, into my stereotypical reflexive interest here!). 

Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 11/04/2005 08:17:00 AM  

RT, Appearances do matter in all elections, and there's always some residual coverage. The New York Times published an op/ed piece discussing Kathleen Harris' makeup. And as far as Linda Tripp and Sam Alito, they're not even elected officials.

I do think that a Margaret Thatcher could win in America, and she was no alpha male. 

Comment by DKL | 11/04/2005 10:14:00 AM  

I'm not saying being an alpha male is determinative, just that it's one factor that can be brought to bear---for good or ill.

We'll never get to test the idea with Margaret Thatcher---who practically was an alpha male---but we may well see Hillary get the nomination. 

Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 11/04/2005 10:40:00 AM  



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