It takes two sides to play the game

In a column today, Robert Novak opines about looming campaigns to derail Judge Samuel Alito’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. Mr. Novak throws around some of the usual rhetoric implying a battle for the soul of the Supreme Court and the nation. Consider:

Little of this has much to do with how Alito actually would conduct himself as a justice, but Supreme Court confirmations have taken on the characteristics of American elections. In truth, the Alito campaign is one part of a relentless, sustained struggle for control of the Supreme Court extending far into the future. Nan Aron of the Alliance for Justice in 2004 declared she will do “whatever it takes” to keep conservatives off the Supreme Court. This year, when Aron was asked what she would do to stop Alito, she replied, “You name it, we’ll do it.”

At least we know early on exactly what Mr. Novak is selling. But what is the meat of the two-sided campaign?

… Alito’s dissents on criminal-search and gun-control cases are cited to turn him into a ”jack-booted thug.” This characterization might seem more credible for Alito, the son of an Italian immigrant, than for Roberts, whose father was a corporate executive.

Alito’s strategists reply with “law enforcement week,” emphasizing his endorsement by the Fraternal Order of Police. To assail Alito’s decisions, said FOP President Chuck Canterbury, is “like attacking a police officer for doing his job and making arrests.”

Based on my initial reaction to a dissenting opinion by Judge Alito, which I did not characterize as support for strip-searching twelve-year-olds as the more hysterical partisans have done, I suppose I’ve attacked police officers. I also hate baseball, apple pie, and puppies. And the Fourth of July. To be more reasonable about it, I’m not concerned about police doing their job. It’s a valid, necessary function in a civil society. I just happen to believe that there should be limits, as previously outlined in the United States Constitution. That isn’t too much to expect. If Judge Alito has given indications in the past that he’s inclined to uphold police/state power, at the expense of the Constitution, then he provided that fact pattern. My only job as a thinking person is to form an opinion on the facts alone. That’s what I tried to do and what I’ll be looking to do during the confirmation hearings. Then I’ll make up my mind.

Given that Mr. Novak uses Mr. Canterbury’s statement as a support for his argument against those interested in stopping Judge Alito’s confirmation, this next bit comes as little surprise.

An Internet ad distributed by the conservative Judicial Confirmation Network to more than 10 million users this week will fire back on critics of Alito’s dissent validating the search of the young daughter of a suspected drug dealer. It contended that “left-wing extremists opposing” Alito “may have found new allies — drug dealers who hide drugs on children.” The ad is also sent on the Internet to, a conservative activist group with 1.5 million members that produced 700,000 signatures in support of an amendment opposing homosexual marriages.

I’m not sure what that last sentence has to do with anything else in his argument, other than wow, Mr. Novak must have an obsession with the topic. I’m also not sure I can fathom how that slipped past his editor. Whatever. I’ll count that sentence as a minor victory of sorts because marriage wasn’t in quotes. Perhaps he conceded the point. Doubtful, but perhaps. I digress.

Allow me to recap Mr. Novak’s central point. Fringe leftist groups are mounting unfounded attacks on Judge Alito’s nomination, turning the confirmation process into a political circus. This should be seen as a bad turn of events in American politics. I’m with him in theory, although I understand our perspectives diverge sharply beyond that. But an internet ad accusing “left-wing extremists” of siding with “drug dealers who hide drugs on children” is different from the nonsense put forth by the left? Ummm … How? By using the phrase “may have found”? I call shenanigans.