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Alito Polling:

This week's Gallup Poll is here: "The poll, conducted Dec. 9-11, finds that 49% of Americans say they would like to see the Senate vote in favor of Alito serving on the Supreme Court, while 29% say they would not, and 22% have no opinion." The Washington Post reports its new poll which finds that 54%-28% of the public favor confirmation at this point.

And breaking news from the Washington Times, which reports that Judge Alito was considered a bit of a nerd in law school. One of his former professors also has an amusing comparison in the story between Alito and his law school contemporary Hillary Clinton.

Roger (mail):
So, you really think that Supreme Court justices should be chosen by popular vote? Where I am from, it is rude to opine on a subject on which one knows nothing of (some people say it is a form of terrorism). I just finished reading all of Alito's opinions, and I came to the conclusion that he probably would not be best for the country (for reasons you don't care about) -- but only after reading all of his opinions. Most of these Americans have not read his opinions, therefore they are not qualified to opine on the subject. God bless those without an opinion, becuase at least they know the damage that those who stated an opinion without reading his opinions have done to the country. I don't know if we can ever recover.
12.22.2005 8:26am
PersonFromPorlock:
But Roger -- how can we tell if your opinion of Judge Alito's opinions is reasoned judgement and not just 'an opinion' when we haven't read all of your opinions first?
12.22.2005 8:50am
Roger (mail):
You can't. My opinion on him isn't that strongly-held, either, so I really don't want to convince people either way. However, to form such an opinion without first reading his, would be unAmerican and would probably help the terrorists.
12.22.2005 9:03am
Nobody (mail):
But Clinton did it!
12.22.2005 10:05am
Cynicus Prime (mail) (www):
Oh geez. Now that he's been compared to Hillary, someone's going to come up with some specious "personal family issues" that are going to make him withdraw his nomination. Way to go, Washington Times.
12.22.2005 10:15am
MDJD2B (mail):
Most of these Americans have not read his opinions, therefore they are not qualified to opine on the subject. God bless those without an opinion, becuase at least they know the damage that those who stated an opinion without reading his opinions have done to the country. I don't know if we can ever recover.

Does this mean everyone should read everything that candidates have read before voting in elections? In that case, should there be a literacy test for voters?

If pollsters are allowed to ask questions that people mustanswer off the cuff without knowing much about the subject, and if the results of the poll are then published, is this tantamount to belief that the issue be decided by referendum?
12.22.2005 10:49am
Beerslurpy (mail) (www):
Unfortunately for typical poll tests, there is a 50 percent chance that those administering the test will be from the bottom half of the intellectual pile, so the typical "tests + discretion" of the Jim Crow days would have to go, even if discriminantion was possible to prevent. The people granted the discretion would be unable to exercise it in an informed manner.

Maybe require SAT scores above a certain percentile or something similar? Nearly everyone of even moderate intelligence has taken one of the college admissions tests by the time they can legally vote. The tests are generally unbiased. The LSAT would also make an excellent test for such purposes.

But this gets us back to the original structure of the government before the populist revolution of the early 20th. Remember that presidents are voted for by the electors (who were once selected for their wisdom, not as rubber stamps) and senators were once chosen by state legislatures. I would imagine that the state legislature of Florida would be far more discerning than the average Florida citizen and less amenable to talk of gay marriage and other irrelevancy.
12.22.2005 11:38am
NaG (mail):
Since when does the whole of a judge's opinions actually encompass every position that the judge will take? Taking Roger's specious observation to it's logical end, reading a judge's opinions would only scratch the surface of understanding how that judge would rule on other kinds of cases. We should not only read everything he has ever written, but hear everything that he has ever said and observe every communicative bodily movement he has ever made. And even that may not be enough for us to truly know Judge Alito, as who knows what secrets lurk in the hearts of men? Perhaps a little waterboarding might be necessary to wrench out his most furtive beliefs!

Blah, blah, terrorists win, blah. Save us the bandwidth.
12.22.2005 11:39am
Bruce Wilder (www):
I always thought that a major factor in Bork's rejection was his eccentric appearance: he looks like a nut. The fact that he is a nut, was secondary for the mass of the American People. Alito looks perfectly normal. He's mild-mannered, well-groomed, etc. He's also an authoritarian.

I don't want to see him on the Supreme Court for the same reason I wish Clarence Thomas was not on the Supreme Court: Alito is an evil prick, to use the technical term.

Would a constitutional majority of the American Body Politic agree with me, if they were fully acquainted with Alito's judicial character? I don't know that they would entirely agree with my labeling him an authoritarian, or that they would even agree "authoritarian" is properly considered a pejorative. The American People, on the evidence available, elected George W. Bush, the worst President since Buchanan, after four years of direct experience with his manner and his policies; their taste and judgement is questionable.

Like it or not, the political contest over Alito's nomination will involve a lot of propaganda. Since the Media is divided between a corporate, right-wing mainstream and an openly partisan Republican branch, with only a marginalized minority of center-left outlets, most of the propaganda will favor Alito. It will be just like the referenced Washington Times article -- puff pieces, which ignore his judicial record. Conservatives will find it convenient to avoid engaging, say, Dahlia Lithwick, in a discussion of the merits of his actual judicial philosophy.

I hold out a slim hope that Alito's nomination will fall victim to the reaction to Bush's overreaching on torture, detention, wire-tapping, etc. Bush is fairly viewed as conducting an assault on the rule of law, and Alito is fairly seen as an appointment meant to confirm that assault; for the sake of my country's future, I hope the country rejects that assault, Bush and Alito included. I'm not optimistic.
12.22.2005 12:27pm
Shelby (mail):
The American People, on the evidence available, elected George W. Bush, the worst President since Buchanan, after four years of direct experience with his manner and his policies; their taste and judgement is questionable.

In their defense, the principle alternative was no prize either. ;-)
12.22.2005 12:32pm
Roger Schlafly (www):
It is funny how the Alito opponents here resort to name-calling. Someone who had read Alito's opinion ought to be able to say something more substantial.
12.22.2005 12:41pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
It is funny how the Alito opponents here resort to name-calling. Someone who had read Alito's opinion ought to be able to say something more substantial.


Quite right which is no doubt why Judge Alito will be confirmed with 60 plus votes early next year.
12.22.2005 1:26pm
Bruce Wilder (www):
Shelby wrote, "In their defense, the principle alternative was no prize either. ;-)"

Exactly what I think, every time a Republican pundit recalls the 1972 Democratic nomination of McGovern.

Post-Whitewater and post-Campaign 2000, the selection pool of Democrats willing and able to brave the inevitable slings and arrows of the Vast Right-wing Conspiracy (VRWC) is pretty shallow. Howard Dean, an apparently sensible fellow, for example, had the support of a lot of Democrats, but gets slapped down by the Media quite regularly. Dean's personal limitations as a speaker or a "political philosopher" are certainly no less severe than those of the moron we've got. But, Diane Sawyer and company disposed of him pretty easily. Kerry's nomination probably owes more than anything to the fact that his wife belongs to the same Pittsburgh billionaire's club as Richard Mellon Scaife, the Whitewater scandal financier, and, thus, Kerry could claim a limited exemption from Media slander of the most determined sort. She was accused in a report given surprising Media attention, though, of assaulting one of Scaife's reporters; a clear shot-across-the-bow to show that even Kerry was not beyond reach.

When a super-wealthy oligarchy dominates the Media, and heavily influences the operations of both Parties, it should be no surprise, that we get mediocrities for political posts reduced to ceremonial function by corruption and media manipulation.
12.22.2005 1:49pm
Bruce Wilder (www):
"It is funny how the Alito opponents here resort to name-calling."

And, it is "funny", but not ha-ha funny, that Alito proponents tell us what a charming nerd he was in law school, or what a great "story" his father had, or all sorts of other "background" irrelevancies. And, it is also "funny" how proponents avoid any discussion of the practical implications of his judicial philosophy. The Bush people have this carefully constructed kabuki play designed to obscure how Alito is likely to rule on Roe v. Wade related cases, so that nominally pro-choice Republicans can vote to confirm him.

You can find liberals and moderates discussing Alito's actual record. http://www.slate.com/id/2131374/ is pretty good and links to other analyses. There's been some pretty good discussion in the comments on volokh conspiracy. Complaining about a lack of specifics in a comment thread headed by a post on a public opinion poll, however, seems pointlessly snarky.
12.22.2005 2:07pm
Fern:

Howard Dean, an apparently sensible fellow, for example, had the support of a lot of Democrats, but gets slapped down by the Media quite regularly.

Please tell me that you're trying to make a point through humor and that you don't really believe the above statement.
12.22.2005 2:10pm
Fishbane (mail):
Where I am from, it is rude to opine on a subject on which one knows nothing of (some people say it is a form of terrorism).

Wow, I missed the memo. USENet, blog comments, and email lists are now all classified as terrorism. Little did I know how much I had in common with suicide bombers.
12.22.2005 2:33pm
Yet Another Anonymous Coward:
For that matter, it's probably rude to opine about the doings of President Bush, since most of the sources from which he gathers his insights are classified.
12.22.2005 3:19pm
ficus:
The U.S. Supreme Court has more power than almost any other tribunal in history. It is the third political branch, doubling as a court of law where cotidian legal questions are concerned. Most people know little about the merits of any nominee as a lawyer, i.e., a legal craftsman, and tend to assume that a man with Alito's resume must be fine in that department. What concerns them more is what his political leanings are, and one judges that partly by who his friends and enemies are. I like Bush, I like numerous commentators on the right who approve of Alito, and so I approve of Alito. What would I accomplish if, not being a lawyer, I attempted to do homework as suggested above? Nothing.

The only thing that would give me pause about Alito is something from someone I trust, that made him sound less than excellent as a lawyer, or center-left as a politician. This is far from what the founders intended, I grant you that. But, then, they had not the remotest conception of what sort of beast this court would be, 200 years on.
12.22.2005 3:48pm
Passing Visitor:
Bruce wilder said: Since the Media is divided between a corporate, right-wing mainstream and an openly partisan Republican branch, with only a marginalized minority of center-left outlets.

I'm sorry, I don't understand. How can the "mainstream" be "right-wing"? Doesn't the political spectrum necessarily center on what is considered "mainstream"?
12.22.2005 3:59pm
Mr Diablo:
What I don't understand is why conservatives are so afraid of Alito's record. The guy is an aggressive conservative judge and makes no bones about it; that was partly why the Right had a Halloween morning orgasm when Alito was announced.

But ever since then, every time something comes up explaining how Alito wants to see abortion banned, or offers strategy to ban it. The Right chickensh*ts itself into saying that "oh, well, he was just a job applicant" or something else to suggest that Alito is the kind of guy who will say anything to get something.

Where's the principles, kids?
12.22.2005 4:36pm
Bruce Wilder (www):
Passing Visitor asks, 'How can the "mainstream" be "right-wing"?'

"Mainstream", I suppose, is partly a matter of style and partly a matter of institutional weight and positioning. I was not using it as a synonym for the centerpoint of the political spectrum, conceptually, philosophically or electorally.

Media (newspapers, magazines, radio, television, blogs) target markets. Some go for a broad appeal; some clearly tailor themselves more narrowly. "Mainstream" in this case means media, who are trying to serve a very broadly defined community, and I was using it as a contrast to media, who target a relatively more narrow audience.

CNN, as a matter of tradition and style, tries to appeal to a broad, American audience; Fox News, provides a lot more opinion, and the weight of that opinion tends to confirm Republican Party orthodoxy. On the basis of targeting, I would say that CNN is "mainstream", and Fox, partisan, even though Fox, most of the time, actually has a much larger audience than CNN. Similarly, the Washington Post tries to be the community paper for the Washington Metro area; the Washington Times targets political conservatives. The Post is "mainstream" and the Washington Times is not. The Post still has a usually quite conservative editorial page. And, the policy of its newspages is, apparently, to appease the White House. See, for example:

Digby1
and
Digby2

The first of the two links comments, briefly, on the presentation in the Post of an Alito poll, similar to the one, which heads this thread, so we are not completely off-topic.
12.22.2005 6:30pm
Bruce Wilder (www):
Fern requests, "Please tell me that you're trying to make a point through humor" [regarding Howard Dean, who I asserted was a sensible fellow].

I am not, and have never been one of his fans, but, to the extent I know his views, I regard him as reasonable and rational -- a conservative by Vermont standards, but a decidedly moderate Democrat on most issues: pro second Amendment, fiscal conservative, etc.

If you arrived at your view of Howard Dean, as a result of the media's presentation of his famous "scream", then, I would assert, you have proved my point. Or, as a result of news coverage he received for saying, correctly, that Saddam's capture did nothing for American security, ditto. Or, as a result of the most recent coverage of his assertion that the U.S. could not "win" in Iraq, ditto, again.
If you arrived at
12.22.2005 6:42pm
JohnO (mail):
Bruce Wilder, you can't seriously believe that the Washington Post "still has a usually quite conservative editorial page." If you do, then that judgment necessarily affects my view of all of your other assessments of the political orientation of various media entities. Mayube the Post is corporate liberal, but they are liberal nonetheless.
12.25.2005 7:40pm