A few months ago, I wrote that the discussion of Harriet Miers was bothering me because the main argument in favor of her was "She MIGHT succeed despite her complete lack of credentials." No, that's not the point. We shouldn't have to guess whether a nominee will make a good Supreme Court candidate or not. The point of having hearings is so that Congress can ask questions and the nominee can answer them.
I watched some of the Alito hearings and they pissed me off. I am sick of this stupid game that all the Bush nominees have played -- a game called "Guess how to make me talk." Whenever Congress asks a direct question like "How would you be likely to rule on this issue?" we get one of these canned responses:
- "I can't answer that because it might reveal what I think before I actually rule on it."
- "That's already been ruled on, so it's been settled and I can't answer it."
- "You can't read what I said I think as an indication of what I actually think."
You know how it goes...
Senator: "Judge Alito, you once wrote that you personally feel that abortion is the world's greatest evil and should be destroyed with extreme prejudice the moment we have the chance to do God's bidding."
Alito: "Well, first of all, I was only writing what my former bosses told me to write. And second of all, even if I ever did feel that way, it was a long time ago."
Senator: "Okay. How do you feel about it now?"
Alito: "Stare decisis. My opinion isn't relevant."
Can you imagine any other job interview where a candidate gets to act like this?
Interviewer: "How would you handle this hypothetical situation if we hired you for this position?"
Candidate: "I'm sorry, but I can't answer that question because it might have some relevance to how I would do this job."
For all the interviewer knows, this person MIGHT be supremely competent at handling the job. But there's no point in waiting to find out, because the candidate is an asshole, and the interviewer is completely justified in showing him the door.
And that's what I wish Congress would do. And keep doing it. And send a message to the president: "I'm sorry, but this idiot will not talk to us. If you're serious about getting a nominee approved, please send us someone who will answer the questions."
Alito should damn well SAY: "No, I changed my mind about this unitary executive stuff. I don't believe it, and if the president overstepped his boundaries, I would rule against him." And if he won't say it, after being pointedly asked, then there's no reason not to assume the worst.
If Bush and Co. want an anti-abortion candidate badly enough, can't they at least be honest about it? Let them send a guy who will say "I disapprove of Roe v Wade and I mean to do all I can to undermine it, if not overturn it." If they want somebody who will assign the absolute power of a monarch to the president, let them send a guy who will say that.
He'll lose, of course. But he deserves to lose if he can't get 60 votes. As I said about Miers, the vast majority of people have NO business being on the highest court in the land, and the nominee gets the burden of proof on whether he is one of those uniquely qualified individuals.
Unlike Harriet Miers, Judge Alito is not a clueless groupie. He knows the law. But that's not enough. I want the guy who will serve on the Supreme Court for most of the rest of my life to have at least two qualifications. I want him to be competent, AND not evil. One or the other doesn't cut it.
I don't think that's a high bar to set. Nor do I think it's unreasonable to expect the candidate to openly and honestly demonstrate that he meets those expectations.