They have huffed and puffed, threatened and delayed. But faced with a scheduled Tuesday vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Democrats are hatching a plan for dealing with the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. Like watching sausage being made, it's not a pretty sight.
A matter-of-fact report in The New York Times captured the crass, bare-knuckled motive. With little chance of stopping Alito, The Times wrote, "Senate Democratic leaders urged their members Tuesday to vote against him in an effort to lay the groundwork for making a campaign issue of his decisions on the court."
There you have it, a sign of how debased the Democratic Party has become. Faced with a nominee who obviously is qualified, Senate Dems are lining up to vote against Alito for purely political purposes.
It is a breathtaking moment where all the doubts and cynicism about Washington politicians are blatantly confirmed. And the whole truth is actually worse.
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) defended the plan with a logic that was so tortured it can lead to only one reading: the wackadoo wing is now the puppeteer pulling the strings on U.S. senators. Durbin told The Times, "I think some people may ask the important question, Did the Senate really take a close look at this nominee?"
That's a cover-your-backside confession revealing Durbin and Co. as nervous bureaucrats afraid of their bosses. Those bosses - "some people," in Durbin's words - are the party fanatics, the special interest groups who have already accused the senators of letting Alito off easy.
Kate Michelman, a longtime abortion rights leader, said that "it is worrisome that there wasn't more strength behind their questioning" on abortion.
For anyone who actually saw the repeated, hostile badgering on Alito on abortion and other issues, the charge comes so deep from left field that it's hard to believe anyone could make it, let alone take it seriously. Especially outrageous was the way Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) assaulted Alito's character. As I said then, when Kennedy, he of Chappaquidick infamy, is your point man on ethics, you're in trouble.
But Democrats don't think they're in trouble, at least with their donor base. So they keep feeding the beast as though that's the path back to power. Using Supreme Court nominees as punching bags is part of the hapless plan.
Chief Justice John Roberts was such a brilliant nominee that 22 Democrats - half the Senate total - voted for him. But none of the party leaders did. And all of the Dems with national ambitions voted against Roberts. John Kerry, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden - likely 2008 presidential candidates - voted no. So did New York's Chuck Schumer, who is head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and needs to raise funds from the angry lefties.
Alito, though not as captivating a witness as Roberts, nonetheless deserves bipartisan support. Rated well-qualified by the American Bar Association, he showed a careful, deliberate approach to the law that should reassure any fair-minded American.
That would seem to exempt most Democratic senators. But tellingly, they have decided not to commit collective suicide. Notice there is no talk of a filibuster against Alito. To pull one off, they would have to hold most of their ranks and, more importantly, explain to the American people why they would resort to such a drastic move.
Alito's humility and intelligence would reveal the Democrats' real motives. So they've settled for a feeble demonstration of their puppeteers' concerns.