"Nobody has told me what to say," Alito snapped.Well, there's a difference between being "told what to say" and receiving help sculpting your answers. You can be your own man and still want to support the President's side. And who doesn't think Alito had help preparing? Let's look at the transcript:
FEINGOLD: As I understand it, you've prepared for these hearings over the past few months with a variety of practice sessions. Some have called them moot courts or murder boards. Was the question of the president's power in time of war to take action contrary to a federal statute ever raised in any way during any of the practice sessions for these hearings?Nice interchange. Feingold deserves a lot of credit for listening to the answers and following up aggressively, and Alito interacted with him well. Does this count as "bristling" as Lane has it, or is this just real debate, and it overexcites us because we don't get to see enough of it?
ALITO: I have had practice sessions on a great variety of subjects, and I don't know whether that specific issue was brought up. It may have been. But what I can tell you...
FEINGOLD: You don't recall whether this issue...
ALITO: No, the issue of FISA certainly has been something that I have studied, and this is not -- FISA is not something that has come before me as a judge.
FEINGOLD: But you don't recall whether or not this was covered in the practice sessions?
ALITO: No, no, the specific question that you raised about the conflicts between the president's authority to say that a statute enacted by Congress should not be followed. But the general area of wiretapping and foreign intelligence surveillance, wiretapping...
FEINGOLD: ... the recent events that have led to this dispute...
ALITO: And the recent events.
FEINGOLD: ... and the possibility that it may come before you. Right, Judge?
ALITO: That's correct.
FEINGOLD: OK. Who was present at these practice sessions where these questions were discussed? And who gave you feedback or suggestions or made any comment whatsoever on the answers you gave?
ALITO: Nobody at these sessions or at any of the sessions that I had has ever told me what to say in response to any question.
FEINGOLD: I just asked -- were there no comments...
ALITO: The comments that I've received...
FEINGOLD: ... or no advice?
SPECTER: Let him answer the question, Senator Feingold.
ALITO: The advice that I've received has gone generally to familiarizing me with the format of this hearing, which is very different from the format of legal proceedings in which I've participated either as a judge or previously when I was arguing a legal issue as a lawyer.
But nobody has told me what to say. Everything that I've said is an expression of my own ideas.
FEINGOLD: And I don't question that, Judge. I asked you, though, whether anybody gave you any feedback or suggestions or made any comment whatsoever on the answers you gave in the practice sessions.
ALITO: In general? Yes, they've given me feedback, mostly about the form of the question, the form of the answers.
FEINGOLD: Have you received any other advice or suggestions directly or indirectly from anyone in the administration on how you should answer these questions?
ALITO: Not as to the substance of the question. No, Senator.
FEINGOLD: Only as to the style?
ALITO: That's correct; as to the format. Not as to what I should say I think about any of these questions. Absolutely not. I've been a judge for 15 years. And I've made up my own mind during all of that time.
FEINGOLD: Again, I'm not suggesting that.
ALITO: I just want to make that clear
FEINGOLD: I asking whether or not somebody talked about the possible legal bases that the president might assert with regard to the ability to do this wiretapping outside of the FISA statute. Was that kind of a discussion held?
ALITO: Nobody actually told me the bases that the president was asserting. I found the letter that was released last week or the week before by an assistant attorney general setting out arguments relating to this on the Internet myself and printed it out.
And I studied it to get some idea of some of the issues that might be involved here. And I looked at some other materials that legal scholars have put out on this issue. But nobody in the administration actually has briefed me on what the administration's position is with respect to this issue.
FEINGOLD: Does it strike you as being inappropriate for members of the Department of Justice or the White House staff who are currently defending the president's actions in the NSA domestic spying program to be giving you advice on how you might handle questions about that topic in the hearing?
ALITO: It would be very inappropriate for them to tell me what I should say. And I wouldn't have been receptive to that sort of advice. And I did not receive that kind of advice.