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The LiberalOasis Blog
The daily view from the oasis

November 4, 2005 PERMALINK
Where's That Debate?
(posted Nov. 4 2 AM ET)

George Will, speaking for the anti-Miers Right, lauded the Alito nomination because “the nation has long needed a serious debate” about judicial philosophy and the nature of our Constitution.

On the 5th day of the nomination, it is patently clear that we will not be treated such a glorious debate.

And it is patently clear that conservatives could not care less.

The Alito spin operation is not about provoking any sort of grand philosophical debate. We are not hearing challenge the insidious liberal legal elite over the flawed reasoning in Griswold, Roe and Lawrence.

No, the spin team is all about duping liberals and moderates into thinking Alito is an “open-minded” conservative who will respect precedent.

The first set of White House talking points was all about disingenuously blurring the meaning behind Alito’s record of screwing over citizens seeking equal treatment.

Then the White House began feeding reporters so-called liberals who claim to know that Alito isn’t all that right-wing. (The AP and the LA Times appear to well-fed. The LAT has gone down this sorry path before.)

And of course, there’s Alito himself, telling Senators how Griswold’s right to privacy is “good law,” and how he just agonized over his husband notification ruling in Casey.

(Somehow, we’re supposed to believe he supports Griswold’s right of marital privacy and husband notification requirements for abortions. Please.)

Kevin Drum writes, “I wonder how long it's going to be before social conservatives cotton to Alito's coded acceptance of Roe and turn on him the same way they did on Harriet Miers?”

Um, try, “until James Dobson marries RuPaul in Faneuil Hall ”

Conservatives know what’s going on.

John Roberts threw a lot of sand in our eyes over privacy too, using coded language that would dupe clueless headline writers, but not rattle clued-in conservatives.

Similarly, the right-wing Confirm Them wasted no time assuring its readers that Alito’s “good law” is a meaningless term. No tears over the nonexistent debate over Griswold.

So, nothing has changed with this nomination. Right-wing nominees still lie to mask their ideology.

What does this mean for our strategy?

1. Senators should realize that Alito is not to be trusted. Don’t abet him by regurgitating what he said after your private meetings.

2. We all must realize that White House aided “testimonials” from Alito’s allegedly liberal colleagues are not to be trusted either.

Wishful thinking about Alito is nonsensical. The only sensible strategy is to defeat Alito and weaken Bush so severely that he is forced to nominate a truly impartial judge.

(In that vein, check out LiberalOasis’ HuffPo exchange with Flavia Colgan.)

3. We must understand that we are not having a good-faith philosophical debate.

We are having a battle with dishonest people.

Our job is to preemptively undermine Alito's credibility before the LieFest, otherwise known the hearings, by showing the true nature of his agenda found in his past work.

We must show that he is a conservative judicial activist that will prevent our democratically elected Congress from passing laws that the public wants.

Such as laws that protect the environment, provide family medical leave, and get machine guns off the streets.

He will deny citizens their day in court such as when corporations pollute their towns or discriminate against employees.

And he is so tied to corporations that he once unethically ruled in favor of a mutual fund company in which he had invested $390,000.

November 3, 2005 PERMALINK
Ganging Up
(posted Nov. 3 1:15 AM ET)

The AP suggested that since two GOPers from the Gang of 14 have essentially indicated they would go nuclear if Alito is filibustered, that means the Gang agreement is effectively invalid, paving the way for Alito's confirmation.

That analysis forgets about GOP Sen. Arlen Specter, who was noncommittal on the nuclear option the last time around, but didn’t join the Gang.

If he refused to break Senate rules and go nuclear, and the rest of GOPers and Dems in the Gang did the same, the filibuster could still be used to stop Alito.

How best to ensure that outcome?

It all comes down to public opinion.

If, for example, more than 50% of the public opposes Alito, then it won’t be hard for these Senators to conclude that Alito’s record of right-wing judicial activism is an “extraordinary circumstance.”

Conversely, if more than 50% support Alito, then these Senators will be inclined to say that even if they don’t always agree with Alito, his resume and love of his mother ensure that he does not rise to the level of an “extraordinary circumstance.”

(The American Street also suggests floating the idea that if the button is pushed, Dems will add two seats to the Court once they regain control of the presidency and Congress, in an effort to dissuade the GOPers. Can’t hurt.)

Having said that, it’s possible that even with a strong majority opposing Alito, GOPers may be crazy enough to go nuclear anyway.

But doing that against the grain of public opinion would give Dems great leeway to use creative parliamentary moves (like yesterday’s “closed session”) to thwart the GOP agenda, and set the stage for big gains in the ’06 elections.

So, where do we stand today?

According to CBS, 15% support Alito, 7% don’t, 75% don’t know.

Both sides have a lot of work to do.

And to beat a dead horse from yesterday, “a lot of work,” means a lot of TV ads in conjunction with a lot of grassroots mobilizing.

November 2, 2005 PERMALINK
Reid Trumps Bush
Will Alito Be Forgotten?
(posted Nov. 2 1:30 AM ET)

As many have noted, Reid’s “closed session” move successfully thwarted Bush’s attempt to change the subject from Libby and Iraq to the Alito nomination.

But Reid wasn’t the only person trying to take the focus off Alito. Bush was too.

He tried to make his avian flu proposal the number one story today. Plus, his tax reform panel released their final recommendations.

Doesn’t anyone want to talk about Alito?

Remember, Bush was forced to put up a guy with a paper trial when his blank slate didn’t work out. He is not eager to talk up Alito’s ideology.

So instead of encouraging the media to dig into Alito’s conservative activist judicial philosophy, Bush decided a pile-on of other news would be preferable.

Because that could turn attention away from the indictment and ongoing investigation, without letting Americans get too knowledgeable about Alito’s views.

But that gambit didn’t factor in Reid’s surprise move.

Now, the question for Reid and the Dems is:

Are you going to go easy on Alito in the course of stepping up the pressure on Iraq-related issues?

Or are you going to walk and chew gum at the same time?

The liberal blogosphere is absolutely right to cheer on Reid’s spine and creativity.

And Reid is absolutely right to resist Bush’s attempt to avoid accountability for how we were sent to war, especially if it is a part of a strategy to articulate a different Democratic direction for Iraq policy.

But if the Dems renewed focus on Iraq is at the expense of raising public awareness of Alito’s record, that could be dangerous. There’s much heavy lifting to do if we are to rally public opinion against his confirmation.

One thing that would help Dems walk and chew gum is if the leading liberal civil rights groups take the lead in framing Alito’s record and stoking concern.

Groups like People for the American Way, Alliance For Justice, NARAL Pro-Choice America and MoveOn were quick to announce opposition and engage the liberal grassroots.

Yet they appear to be a little slow in getting ads on the air.

Perhaps that’s a little unfair, as we’re just in the third day. However, the pro-Alito ads are already up and running.

Bush may not want excessive media coverage of Alito, but that doesn’t mean his side isn’t giving 110% effort to get him on the bench.

For us, walking and chewing gum, fighting Alito and pressuring Bush about Iraq and The Leak, means giving 120% effort.

Make no mistake, Reid gave us that kind of effort today. We all need to do it every day for many days to come.

(UPDATE 10:30 AM ET 11/2/05 -- The Boston Globe reports, "Leading liberal groups are conducting polls over the next few days to determine the most effective ways to frame their characterizations of Alito in television and radio advertisements. They intend to focus on cases in which Alito has endorsed a limited view of the right to privacy and civil rights, and they will make the case that he would be replacing a moderate who is a frequent swing vote..."

Fair enough, but let's hope our side does not get overly reliant on polling, if it's going to slow down decision-making and allow the pro-Alito forces to remain one step ahead.)

QUICK HIT

The Real Republican Dictionary

Robert Lasner (who's the editor of the forthcoming "Proud To Be Liberal," which includes a contribution from LiberalOasis) just published the sharp and satirical "The Real Republican Dictionary."

Here's a taste:

FRIST, BILL: Animal rights activist

PRETZEL: The most dangerous weapon ever conceived by man.

YELLOW CAKE: High in saturated facts

They make great Fitznukkah stocking stuffers, so get some today!

November 1, 2005 PERMALINK
The First 24 Hours: Game On
(posted Nov. 1 2:30 AM ET)

Congressional Dems and liberal civil rights groups never figured out how to handle blank slate nominees.

So when John Roberts and Harriet Miers came up, they sat on their hands.

In the Roberts case, they waited until the hearings before speaking up, and by then it was too late.

Roberts had been defined/spun as “brilliant” in the first 24 hours. The game was over before it begun.

With Miers, Dems and liberals got lucky as the Right pounced on her right away, negatively defining her in the first 24 hours as unqualified. (Though it took evidence of public contradictions on Roe to finish her off.)

Now, with Alito, we have an overt right-winger with a paper trail, and Dems and liberals in DC are no longer flummoxed.

The activists came out hard with condemnation and information. Dem leaders, while pledging fair hearings, made their disappointment known.

And so, the media portrayal of Alito is not “brilliant,” but “controversial,” which the media will not consider Alito’s confirmation as a certainty.

As perception is reality, the game is on.

But this is just Day 1. The fight is only beginning.

And it is a tough fight.

A few simplistic talking points aren’t enough to make a comprehensive case against a long-serving judge.

Yet complicated dissections of cases won’t communicate to individuals how Alito’s confirmation would inflict harm on their daily lives.

We have to find that balance. We have to distill the issues at hand to best engage the public, but also have the deep understanding of issues needed to handle hand-to-hand intellectual combat with the Right.

Hopefully, yesterday’s initial Alito post here was a helpful start of that process.

But that only spoke to Alito’s pattern of hostility to equality. There’s more to mine in Alito’s awful record.

Extremely key is Alito’s attempt to prevent our democratically elected Congress from passing a machine gun ban.

That puts to rest the bunk that Alito believes in “judicial restraint.”

Like any conservative judicial activist, he will plea “restraint” when laws that deny people rights are enacted, then happily strike down laws he doesn’t like which protect rights and promote the common good.

And the record shows that it is the right-wing of the Supreme Court that has been far more activist, far more eager to overturn Congress, and strip the public’s ability have their interests advanced by their representatives.

Whose interests is Alito’s judicial activism seeking to advance?

According to Business Week, it’s corporate executives:

...one group is breathing a big sigh of relief: Corporate America. Of the dozen or so names on Bush's rumored short list of high court candidates, Alito ranked near the top for the boardroom set.

In the 800-plus opinions he has penned during his 15 years as a federal judge, Alito consistently has come down on the side of limiting corporate liability, limiting employee rights, and limiting federal regulation. "He would be a liability restrainer," says Stan Anderson, legal-affairs lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

We need judges that will give citizens a fair hearing and respect their constitutional rights, not ones that are in the pocket of corporate execs.

For example, when a community’s water supply is contaminated, citizens should be able to hold polluter corporations to account.

Not according to Alito, as Confined Space noted. He voted to make it harder for citizens to bring Clean Water Act violations to trial, ignoring the letter of the law.

The way to win this fight is to move public opinion -- alert the public to what the conservative judicial activists have in store, and how Alito has already tried to advance their agenda on behalf of the corporate elite.

And once public opinion is clearly against Alito, moderate GOPers can be picked off and filibusters can be sustained – for Alito and beyond, until all of America gets the Court it deserves.

October 31, 2005 PERMALINK
Samuel Alito: Hostility to Equality
(posted Oct. 31 9 AM ET)
(minor edit Oct. 31 12 PM ET)

What's Samuel Alito's trademark? Hostility to equality.

The opinion that people will focus on the most was his desire to uphold a spousal notification provision in a PA abortion law that severely restricted reproductive freedom.

Most will look at his opinion to indicate opposition to Roe, and they should.

But fundamentally, it was an opinion that was dismissive of women's independence.

The vast majority of married women already discuss abortion decisions with their husbands, they don't need a law to force them to do so.

But there are situations where a married woman would not want to, such as when she is mired in an abusive relationship, or if the marriage is fraying and near its end.

And it is not our government's place to tell a woman what to do in such situations, one way or the other.

As the Supreme Court determined in opposing Alito's view: "For the great many women who are victims of abuse inflicted by their husbands, or whose children are the victims of such abuse, a spousal notice requirement enables the husband to wield an effective veto over his wife's decision."

Alito had callously shrugged off such concerns, saying "The plaintiffs failed to show even roughly how many of the women in this small group would actually be adversely affected...". Classy.

Alito's hostiliy to equality goes beyond that one ruling.

He tried to make it easier for employers accused of sex discrimination to get the cases thrown out, saying that cases don't automatically deserve to go to trial when employers make excuses for discrimination and plaintiffs cast doubt on them.

Similarly, he tried to protect Marriott Hotels when it was found to discriminate against an African-American employee.

The majority said Alito's "position would immunize an employer ... if the employer's belief that it had selected the 'best' candidate, was the result of conscious racial bias."

He sought the deny our democratically elected Congress the authority to have the Family Medical Leave Act apply to state government employees, arguing that there was no discrimination in employers' sick leave policies.

(That's a view that was overruled by the Supreme Court in an opinion written by Rehnquist. Yes, he's to the Right of Rehnquist.)

Perhaps what's most disturbing is his view that girls sexually abused at school by other students cannot take legal action against the school for failing to protect them.

For Sandra Day O'Connor to be replaced by a man who has been defined as "an activist conservatist judge [who] has looked to be creative in his conservatism" will be a huge step backwards.

For the sake of the American ideal of equal protection under the law, bring out the filibuster.

October 31, 2005 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted Oct. 31 1:30 AM ET)

Sen. Minority Leader Harry Reid sought to seize the moment by appearing on both ABC’s This Week and CNN’s Late Edition following Bush’s worst week. How’d he do?

On the upside, he was forward-leaning. He was not defensively parrying bogus right-wing talking points.

For example, on This Week, he began by proactively framing the Libby indictment in the context of the myriad of GOP indictments, arrests and investigations (Libby, DeLay, Frist, Safavian), as well as the party’s policy failures at home and abroad (Iraq, Katrina, gas prices) – implicitly and smartly connecting corruption with bad policy.

On a mild downside, Reid’s main call to the Administration -- urging Karl Rove’s resignation for being involved in The Leak -- won’t have as much of an impact as other approaches would.

Reid did generate some headlines for the call, helping maintain The Leak’s heightened profile and helping Dems stay on the offensive.

But PA Senate candidate Bob Casey’s demand – which was read by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in a question to Reid – is far more potent:

The president should completely remove any expectation that Administration officials might receive a “Get Out of Jail Free” card if found guilty.

A “No Pardons” pledge will stop anyone from trying to game the judicial system in this investigation.

Reid agreed with Casey without hesitation.

But he should do more than agree. He and every other Dem should take the “No Pardons” ball and run downfield with it.

It’s brilliant because it’s win-win, no matter how Bush responds to it.

If Bush refuses to issue a “No Pardons” edict, it raises additional questions about his and Cheney’s complicity in The Leak, and about Bush’s professed “honor and integrity” standards.

If public pressure forces Bush to issue such a pledge, that takes away a big incentive for Libby to keep his mouth shut about his bosses, increasing the chances he’ll spill in exchange for a lighter sentence.

The White House has an argument for keeping Rove around: he hasn’t been indicted. (At least, not yet. Some say he's still in "significant danger.")

Sure, Bush moved the goalposts from his initial comments about "taking care" of anyone who was involved. But it’s still an argument.

While there is absolutely no argument for keeping pardons on the table.

The Blog Wire
Tracking the liberal blogosphere

The New Republic's The Plank: "Alito insisted that the private possession of machine guns was not an economic activity, and there was no empirical evidence that private gun possession increased violent crime in a way that substantially affected commerce--therefore, Congress has no right to regulate it. Alito's colleagues criticized him for requiring 'Congress or the Executive to play Show and Tell with the federal courts at the peril of invalidation of a Congressional statute.' His lack of deference to Congress is unsettling." (via Eschaton)

Alliance For Justice: a comprehensive 24-page PDF dossier of Alito's judicial record

Save The Court: Sign the Stop Alito petition

Think Progress: Samuel Alito's America

Harry Reid email statement: "I look forward to meeting Judge Alito and learning why those who want to pack the Court with judicial activists are so much more enthusiastic about him than they were about Harriet Miers"

Legal Momentum: PDF with Alito's record on women's rights and civil rights

ACSBlog: Who is Samuel Alito?

Oliver Willis: "Bottom line: The White House leaked classified information to the media, while a member of the White House staff lied under oath and obstructed justice. And they’re supposed to be the national security party."

TomDispatch's Elizabeth de la Vega: "We should not expect a final resolution any time soon ... the indictment ... describes a chronology of close to two years and a complicated set of facts. Obviously, Fitzgerald is taking a 'big picture' approach to this case ... the allegations suggest [Libby] was merely one of many officials ... who were involved in revealing classified information ..."

Tapped: "Today's indictment is really just the beginning of a very intensive process ... there will have to be extensive depositions, exhibits, and witness testimony."

No Quarter: "A careful reading of the indictment shows beyond a reasonable doubt that there was an organized effort in the White House to go after Joe and Valerie Wilson. At a minimum, Vice President Cheney was witting of this effort. Too bad these guys did not work as feverishly in tracking down Osama Bin Laden."

firedoglake: "There are smoking guns all over the place in the Libby indictment."

Talking Points Memo: "the Counterproliferation Division (CPD) is part of the CIA's Directorate of Operations ... where the spies come from. Libby's a long time national security hand. He knows exactly what CPD is and where it is. So does Cheney. They both knew. It's right there in the indictment."

Mark A.R. Kleiman: "The fact that Libby was indicted today solely on the 'technical' charges doesn't mean that he won't face 'substantive' charges later. If Fitzgerald is putting together a conspiracy indictment under the Espionage Act (or, less plausibly, under [the Intelligence Identities Protection Act]), it would be natural for him not to tip his hand by indicting Libby on those charges now."

Office of the Special Counsel issues its press release (PDF) explaining the Libby indictments

The Smoking Gun has the 5-count indictment of Libby (via Eschaton)

Raw Story: "Rove may be in hotter water: Sources say he was offered a perjury deal but turned it down"

Sic Semper Tyrannis' Richard Sale: "I asked if Fitzgerld was going to expand his operation, "The probe is going to expand, yes," ... That Cheney is really the center of the probe has been confirmed by several reliable sources"

SCOTUS Blog's Lyle Denniston: "the desire of Bush followers to have O'Connor replaced before the Justices take up the new abortion cases on Nov. 30 appears to have been frustrated by Miers' withdrawal"

ACSBlog and Legal Momentum (scroll down to "Exposed") have background on possible Miers replacements

Nathan Newman: "at least we have it well established that ideological litmus tests are an acceptable reason to oppose a nominee, and failure to explain one's position is also reason for opposition. So thanks to the rightwing for making the rules so very clear."

Think Progress: The Miers Withdrawal: A Sign of Weakness

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