The Senate Judiciary Committee is about to take up the matter of Judge Samuel Alito as the President’s nominee to the Supreme Court. May all who have an interest draw near.
The Supreme Court and, by inference, nominees to that court have become single-issue objects of debate. It is all about Roe vs Wade and has been for some years now. An abortion issue litmus test obscures any deeper rational interrogation into a prospective judge’s more widely acquired qualifications.
And now, somehow we have added another foolishness; whether or not Judge Alito’s head may be satisfactorily Photo-Shopped onto the robed figure of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to satisfy . . . what? . . . or whom? The Senate is advising and consenting to a president’s nominee and it is in no way germain to that choice or that advice that the nominee be the ideological equivalent of Justice O’Connor.
I find some comfort in the fact that each extreme on these issues of Roe and separation of church and state finds fault with the nominee. There’s the further comfort that he doesn’t suit me entirely either. That’s the way it should be. The nation’s Supreme Court is not constitutionally defined in such a way that it should suit or espouse a particular ideology.
Having said that, I’ll come clean and list a few of my own particular hot buttons, all in the spirit of the New Year and a don’t-take-me-overly-seriously frame of reference. Personally, I think we get into foolish territory when we
- Ban the Pledge of Allegiance in classrooms, when a simple exchange of indivisible for under God would suffice. As a schoolboy, I had impressed upon my mind on a daily basis that this nation provided liberty and justice for all.
- Burn, bomb, threaten and harass abortion clinics and their patients with all the wild-eyed hatred of the Ku Klux Klan, while merrily executing the poor and the black.
- Get hysterical over the Ten Commandments when they show up on a plaque or engraving in this or that government building.
- Likewise, lose all sense of perspective when the Christian depiction of the birth of Christ appears on the village green at Christmas time.
- Polarize ethical thought. Polarization merely frustrates me learning about you and you knowing my thoughts on issues of interest to us both. If my god is not capitalized, it shouldn’t prevent conversation about what it means to be religious or to live in a substantially religious society.
So, I find Sam Alito entirely acceptable because as much as in spite of his differences with me. Above all else, I value a nominee of intellectual depth, one who is not an ideologue and whose values and judgements change over a lifetime. Alito meets all these personal criteria in my opinion.
Actually, given the extreme conservatism of this particular presidency, I think George Bush has done (with the exception of Harriet Miers) an excellent job in the advocacy of both Roberts and Alito. Each is a man of great judicial intellect and depth, with impeccable credentials. I shared a common fear that the choices available to this president might swing the court irrevocably to the right.
Neither of his nominees suited me entirely, nor did they seem unduly partisan and that’s reason enough for a standing ovation.