- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Sam Alito gets his first of two votes today, by the Senate Judiciary Committee to be followed later this week by the full Senate, and Mr. Alito can be excused if he thinks of these as his victory laps.

The Democrats have not given up; somewhere in a basement in Washington aides are concocting further horror stories for their bosses to spring on the public today, tomorrow or the next day.

But in all likelihood, to no avail. If earlier allegations didn’t work that Judge Alito is an abuser of women and a molester of little girls, an unredeemed racial bigot plotting to restore discrimination, segregation and maybe even slavery, it’s difficult to imagine what would. Teddy Kennedy, Dick Durbin, Pat Leahy and the other worthies who peddled these sordid insinuations didn’t really believe them, and neither did anyone else.

All 10 Republicans on the committee are expected to vote “aye” sometime this afternoon, and all 8 Democrats are expected to vote “nay.” The 10-to-8 tally to set up the final vote would in ordinary times suggest trouble for the nominee in the full Senate. But these are not ordinary times. The Democrats have made it abundantly clear that they will try to destroy any nominee a Republican president sends to the Senate.

President Bush was feeling a bit triumphant himself yesterday at Kansas State University. “You don’t have to worry about him in the committee,” he told the students. “Sam Alito is a very, very smart, capable man. When you talk to Sam Alito, you think, ‘smart judge.’”

Smart judge or not, such a close committee vote would in those ordinary times all but compel a filibuster. So fervid is the opposition to Judge Alito, in fact, that the Democrats, egged on by fanatics on the left-most fringes of the party, would be delighted to delay the final vote until next year in the hope that the November congressional elections would give them reinforcements enough to prevent the confirmation of anyone they disapprove of, which is everybody to the right of Earl Warren or Bill Douglas.

But the Democrats have no appetite for attempting a filibuster, because the Republicans hold the trigger on the so-called “nuclear option,” getting a simple majority vote of the Senate to set judicial nominations apart from filibusters. Once in place, such a Senate rule would give the president the opportunity to put ever-more conservative judges on the court. One or two retirements might well occur between now and the end of his term in 2009.

Having been defeated in the Senate, some Democrats are blustering to make the Alito nomination an issue in the November congressional elections and, beyond that, the presidential election two years hence. “If [Judge Alito] issues rulings as Sandra Day O’Connor did,” Sen. Dick Durbin, one of the judge’s chief tormentors in the hearings, said yesterday, “it will be no issue at all. But if he goes to the court and comes forward with rulings such as we’ve seen from Justices Scalia and Thomas time and again, it will be an issue.”

Mrs. O’Connor, who probably deserves better, has become the blue queen of the Democratic tea party, whose name is evoked every time someone cites a standard by which Supreme Court judges should be measured, replacing the likes of John Jay, Learned Hand and Oliver Wendell Holmes as the judicial ideal. Sen. Durbin is one of the Democrats who can’t quite get his head around a first truth, which is to control the national agenda, you have to win elections, and to win elections, you have to persuade a majority of the people to stand with you. Sen. Durbin and his colleagues surround themselves with only those who agree with them, and imagine that they are standing on the ramparts defending the majority from an invasion of the ignorant, the stupid, and the lowbrows.

Parades, rallies and wild and silly accusations are no doubt great fun, particularly if that’s all that’s available, but in the end you have to have the votes. George W. Bush is only sending to the Senate the kind of judges — scholars and men of integrity — that he promised he would in both 2000 and 2004. He has never kept his intentions secret. If Sam Alito is too judicious to enjoy his victory laps, maybe George W. shouldn’t be.

Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Times.

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