The Lockdown and Judge Alito

I said a few days ago that the Senate Democrats were making wild noises about pre-war Iraq intelligence (including their notorious lockdown of the Senate) in part to distract their base’s attention from the fact that they are largely impotent where it counts; in particular, that they are unable to block President Bush’s Supreme Court nominees. The Evans-Novak Report enlarges on this theme:

Democrats reacted to the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court with a sudden, unexpected and unusual move to send the Senate into closed session. Although the move gained them mostly negative coverage in the press — it was viewed as a “stunt” or a “gimmick” — it served its purpose exactly as intended.

For two months, Democrats had been winning the public relations war by default as Republicans suffered the fallout from the DeLay indictment, violence in Iraq, the split among Republicans over the Harriet Miers nomination, Hurricane Katrina, and the anticipation of legal action over the CIA leak scandal. But all it took was the Alito nomination to put them back on their heels.

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The real purpose of the lockdown was two-fold. First, the move gins up the far-left base of the party. … Second, the move takes the public eye off of Sam Alito just when the administration wanted it to be there.

Novak agrees that the Democrats have little prospect of derailing Alito’s nomination:

Regardless of their generally good political situation, Democrats are behind the eight-ball on this nomination.

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When the bipartisan Group of Fourteen met last week, it became clear that Republicans have the 51 votes they will need to muscle this nomination through with the so-called Nuclear Option if Democrats try to prevent an up-or-down vote. A filibuster would be unpopular, and many Democrats are still upset about the filibusters and delaying tactics against judges that contributed so much to their loss of six red-state Senate seats and the Senate majority in two election cycles.

The early guess on Capitol Hill is that Alito will pass through the Judiciary Committee and get 65 votes on the Senate floor. Liberal groups are already gearing up for the next battle in anticipation of the next vacancy, probably the seat of Associate Justice John Paul Stevens.

I agree, except that it it hard to believe that the left-wing groups (NARAL, People for the American Way, etc.) that have raised tens of millions of dollars for the express purpose of resisting Bush’s judicial nominations can afford to sit this one out, on the off-chance that Stevens will retire soon. I think it’s now or never, and that an anti-Alito publicity blitz is coming soon.

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