- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 12, 2006

Yackety-yak

“Perhaps Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee could rally to defeat Samuel Alito’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. But to do so, they’d have to conduct themselves like intelligent adversaries, rather than behaving like a gaggle of boorish, clownish, hectoring geese,” the New York Post’s John Podhoretz writes.

“They would have to ask him probing questions that might lead Alito to contradict himself or back himself into a legal corner. They would have to engage in quick question-and-answer sessions in which they sought to make the nominee agree or disagree to various propositions and act disappointed if he tried to evade them,” Mr. Podhoretz said.

“Mostly, they’d have to stop talking and let Alito talk — because the only way Alito can be defeated is for Alito to defeat himself.

“But Alito’s opponents on the committee are just too deeply in love with the sounds of their own voices and too deeply limited by their own limited understanding of constitutional law to give the judge a run for his money.

“Welcome to the court, Justice Alito. Your ascension is a foregone conclusion, thanks in large measure to people like Sen. Joseph Biden. …

“In the course of Biden’s questioning, Alito spoke for maybe four or five minutes, while Biden ran on for 25. This is not how you defeat a formidable adversary.”

One-sided game

“To understand the pain liberals felt during the Samuel Alito hearing [Tuesday], imagine yourself a die-hard fan of the New York Giants,” New York Daily News columnist Michael Goodwin writes.

“You were revved up for Sunday’s playoff game, confident Big Blue would smash the Carolina Panthers. By the first quarter, though, it was obvious Carolina was a far better team. When a TV announcer said Carolina was good enough to go to the Super Bowl, you got the point. The hometown hype was just that. The scoreboard confirmed the misery, with the Giants shut out 23-0.

“Ditto for the Democrats,” Mr. Goodwin said.

“The Supreme Court game’s not over, but my scorecard after the first half of the hearings has Alito way ahead. Calmly, concisely and in a rumpled, everyman manner, Alito tackled the Democrats’ most hostile questions. He had help from Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who took turns praising him and feeding him leading questions so he could put his actions in a favorable light. But it was his responses to hostile charges by Dems where we glimpsed his conservative and fair legal mind and a measure of humility so lacking in his interrogators.”

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, put on “another shameless performance,” the columnist added. “He huffed and puffed about how Alito had not initially recused himself from a case involving a mutual fund company where he owned shares, as though an innocent young woman drowned. Never mind that he twisted or ignored the key facts, as Alito convincingly demonstrated when another senator let him finish his answers. You know Dems are in trouble when Kennedy takes the lead on ethics issues.”

Biden and Princeton

Not long ago, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. had nothing but praise for Princeton University. But now that a Princeton graduate is a Republican nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, the Delaware Democrat apparently has changed his mind.

At the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., Mr. Biden said he “wasn’t a big Princeton fan.”

“I didn’t even like Princeton,” he said, drawing laughter from the audience. “I mean, I really didn’t like Princeton. I was an Irish Catholic kid who thought it had not changed like you concluded it had,” he told Judge Alito.

However, the Princetonian student newspaper says Mr. Biden had nothing but praise for the university in a 2004 speech at the school.

“It’s an honor to be here,” he said then. “It would have been an even greater honor to have come here.” Mr. Biden also said he had tried, unsuccessfully, to talk his three children into attending Princeton.

Mr. Popularity

Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman remains overwhelmingly popular in his home state, despite vows by anti-war activists to bring him down in November’s elections.

Sixty-two percent of Connecticut voters approve of the way he is handling his job, while 24 percent do not and the rest didn’t know, according to the telephone survey by Quinnipiac University.

Seventy-five percent of Republicans, 61 percent of unaffiliated voters and 59 percent of Democrats said Mr. Lieberman deserves to be re-elected.

“While Sen. Lieberman has lost support among some Democrats, probably because of his strong support for the war in Iraq, he helps make up for it with support from Republicans,” said Quinnipiac pollster Douglas Schwartz.

“Any senator running for re-election this year would be extremely happy to have Lieberman’s poll numbers,” he said.

Democrat bribery

A former aide to Rep. William J. Jefferson, Louisiana Democrat, pleaded guilty yesterday to charges that he helped the congressman solicit bribes to arrange two telecommunications deals, the Associated Press reports.

Brett Pfeffer, 37, said in federal court that a congressman demanded bribes in exchange for assistance in brokering two African telecommunications deals.

Court documents did not identify the Louisiana Democrat by name, but clearly are referring to him. A Jefferson spokeswoman declined to comment.

Pfeffer said in court that the congressmen demanded 5 percent to 7 percent of the newly formed African companies in exchange for his help promoting the deal to African government officials and others.

Pfeffer pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting bribery of a public official and conspiracy. He could get 20 years in prison when sentenced March 31 and has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

No Arnold charges

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s weekend motorcycle crash left him with a fat lip and a political black eye, but officials said yesterday that he won’t be charged with a driving violation, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Schwarzenegger was on his Harley-Davidson, with his 12-year-old son in a sidecar, when he collided Sunday with a car on a winding canyon road. Police said he was driving without a license, but the city attorney declined to file any charges after reviewing the accident report.

“The city attorney will not file any charges,” said Officer Grace Brady, a police spokeswoman. Even though police concluded he was unlicensed, the department “cannot go back and cite the governor because we did not witness the driving.”

The governor acknowledged that he had driven a motorcycle for years without getting a license, telling reporters that he “never thought about it.” There also was dispute among California officials on whether the sidecar made the vehicle legal for the governor to operate.

Prosecutors decided not to get involved because it was a minor matter that would have resulted only in a traffic ticket, said Jonathan Diamond, a spokesman for the city attorney’s office.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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