- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Finally, an argument worth having. As opposed to the one we’ve lately had over Valerie what’s-her-name’s “outing” (if that’s what happened) by Lewis what’s-his-name.

I am authorized to announce few outside Washington and other fever-ridden outposts of political excess give more than a faint hoot about Washington leak stories — however highly the national media esteem such stories.

I am also authorized — more than that, inspired — to note that we in red-state America care a lot about whether the U.S. Supreme Court gets turned around. We note President Bush’s nomination of Samuel Alito to the Sandra O’Connor seat on the Supreme Court points toward turnaround.

In other words, Judge Alito, of the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, is a recognized critic of judicial overreaching. Any jurist whom Sen. Harry Reid would warn Mr. Bush not to appoint seems just the kind we need on the Supreme Court. If Bush must make someone unhappy, let it be those senators and mouthpieces — Mr. Reid, for instance, and Ralph Neas of the People for the American Way — who cease showing their teeth only when the president does things exactly their way.

The conservative rap on Mr. Bush for nominating Harriet Miers to the job was that, essentially, he was playing games. If Reid and Co. didn’t know a lot of good about the lady, similarly they didn’t know much bad. Maybe they would confirm her.

On that one, Mr. Bush came a cropper. But not on the nomination that followed — that of Judge Alito. (It seems worth mentioning that the much-castigated Miss Miers, as White House counsel, worked professionally, even sacrificially, in vetting Judge Alito. The lady is due some as yet-undistributed credit in the character department.)

Back, briefly, to the indictment of poor Lewis Libby for getting caught (allegedly) at dissembling when asked by the special prosecutor if he had helped publicize the name of a supposedly undercover CIA employee married to a critic of the Iraq war. Carl Bernstein, of Watergate fame, is foretelling the “implosion” of the Bush administration. All one can say is: Huh?

It is plain Mr. Libby should not have lied — if lie he did — to the special prosecutor. It should be equally plain that whether he lied, and deserves punishment, is a question extraneous not just to the outcome of the Iraq war but to the whole range of national concerns, from immigration to inflation to energy policy and airline bankruptcies. You would not have known it, though, from the relentless focus on the question last week by the media and the politicians. The Washington Post’s media critic Howard Kurtz asks: “[A]re reporters, commentators, bloggers and partisans using the outing of Valerie Plame as a proxy war for rehashing the decision to invade Iraq?” You could get that impression, couldn’t you?

One hates to generalize. One also hates not to inquire what all this has to do with the price of eggs. With our freedoms, that is to say; with our foreign policy, our economic aims, our culture. I don’t think we have to call such a story wholly barren of significance. Nor do we have to salivate over it, as if it were the only big thing afoot.

By contrast, a Supreme Court nomination is certifiably large stuff. This is due to the justices’ propensity for inserting themselves into our most vexed national conversations: prayer, human life, homosexual rights, and so on and so on.

Judge Alito, when the nomination news came out, was shelled instantly by the Left for his supposed “pro-life” outlook. What “pro-life” outlook? I wonder. The judge’s record is pro-choice: letting democracy instead of judges choose urgent outcomes.

A court that defers, when possible, to the citizens and resists the temptation to take over is a court worth fighting for. In the outposts of political excess, the boo birds can trill their outrage; but George W. Bush, by naming Sam Alito to the high court, may yet drown them all out.

William Murchison is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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