I think one reason why the Democrats have been reeling is that Judge Alito has been more forthcoming in answering questions than they expected. I suspect that their game plan contemplated Alito being in more of a defensive crouch, declining to respond to questions relating to issues that might come before the Court. In fact, while Alito has taken that tack on occasion, he has been very open in discussing his judicial philosophy and specific cases.
An excellent example occurred this morning, when Alito was asked about the propriety of relying on foreign laws and court decisions for guidance on the application of the Constitution. The New York Times reports:
“I don’t think it’s appropriate or useful to look to foreign law in interpreting the provisions of our Constitution,” Judge Alito said in response to questions from Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, in the third day of the judge’s confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“I think the Framers would be stunned by the idea that the Bill of Rights is to be interpreted by taking a poll of the countries of the world,” Judge Alito said. “The purpose of the Bill of Rights was to give Americans rights that were recognized practically nowhere else in the world at the time. The Framers did not want Americans to have the rights of people in France or the rights of people in Russia or any of the other countries on the continent of Europe at the time; they wanted them to have the rights of Americans.”