Jewish World Review Jan. 10, 2006/ 10 Teves, 5766

Wesley Pruden

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A grand day for strut and splutter | What can you say after you say he's sorry?

Well, not much, if yesterday's opening round of the trial of Samuel Alito is anything like what's to come. The frustrated Democratic senators have bitterly concluded that throwing rocks is all they can do.

Over the past few weeks, the Democratic senators, their jesters and gagmen, have said just how sorry he is. He's just about the sorriest so and so Teddy Kennedy can conjure, and if anybody knows about sorry, Teddy does.

The first day's hearings held not a single surprise. Judge Alito was eloquent, not in his defense, because so far he needs no defense. He set out the reasons why he thinks he would make a good 120th justice of the Supreme Court, and not so long ago, these would have been the sufficient reasons that all good men and true would applaud.

He presented his case with the eloquence of simplicity, bereft of the jargon and blather heated by the partisanship that is the daily work product of senators whose natural talent lies in the art of the scam and the science of the smear. The parody continues not in the ventilation of Judge Alito's judicial philosophy, but a search for a sound bite and the pursuit of a suitable bludgeon.

Teddy Kennedy, the Senate's very own Michelin Man (with the inner-tube jowls and gut but without the jolly grin) couldn't find his way to the point of a question, instead taking a detour to his daily rail against George W. Bush. He suggested that Judge Alito is a liar, a charlatan, a quack and a mountebank. He never got around to saying why, exactly.

No one takes any of the circus seriously, the clowns least of all. No one expects to learn anything about Judge Alito's legal philosophy, his learning, his character, his integrity. No one expects what Sen. Joseph Biden called "a conversation about the issues" to change a single vote, because it's not a conversation, and the only "issue" of interest to Joe and his pals is how to derail a Republican nomination. Judge Alito's philosophy, learning, character and integrity are known quantities already. No one's mind will be changed; any changing of the minds will be done by sentiment in the precincts that sent the clowns to town. Barring an earthquake, the outcome is ordained, and the public had only to listen to Judge Alito's opening statement to discern what kind of justice they'll get.

"When I became a judge," he said in his 11-minute opening statement, "I stopped being a practicing attorney ... . The role of a practicing attorney is to achieve a desirable result for the client in the particular case at hand. But a judge can't think that way. A judge can't have any agenda, a judge can't have any preferred outcome in any particular case, and a judge certainly doesn't have a client.

"The judge's only obligation ... is to the rule of law. And what that means is that in every single case, the judge has to do what the law requires. Good judges develop certain habits of mind. ... Good judges are always open to the possibility of changing their minds based on the next brief that they read, or the next argument that's made by an attorney who's appearing before them, or a comment that is made by a colleague during the conference on the case when the judges privately discuss the case.

"It's been a great honor for me to spend my career in public service. It has been a particular honor for me to serve on the court of appeals for these past 15 years, because it has given me the opportunity to use whatever talent I have to serve my country by upholding the rule of law. ... No person in this country, no matter how high or powerful, is above the law, and no person in this country is beneath the law.

"Fifteen years ago, when I was sworn in as a judge of the court of appeals, I took an oath. I put my hand on the Bible, and I swore that I would administer justice without respect to persons, that I would do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I would carry out my duties under the Constitution and the laws of the United States. ... And if I am confirmed, I pledge to you that that is what I would do on the Supreme Court."

No agenda? That's exactly what his raging detractors find unacceptable. John Kerry and the Democrats of '04, like Al Gore and the Democrats of '00, cried out until they were speechless that if the Republicans prevailed, George W. Bush would appoint judges like Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. It was the only thing Al and John got right. The public understands, and understands that George W. got it right with his first two Supreme Court appointments. The public understands the circus. So do the clowns, who only strut and splutter.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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