But two of Judge Alito's supporters who participated in the murder boards, speaking about the confidential sessions on condition of anonymity for fear of White House reprisals, said they emerged convinced that his demeanor was a political asset because it gave him an Everyman appeal.After all these elaborate practice sessions, no one helps the man with his grooming? Or did some stylist tousle his hair and select ungainly glasses and a brown tie? "That is a very useful look" -- it announces that he's the not-Roberts. Would it be mean of us, then, to look critically at the substance of his answers? The same informant -- who has a way with words, right? -- said:
"He will have a couple hairs out of place," one participant said. "I am not sure his glasses fit his facial features. He might not wear the right color tie. He won't be tanned. He will look like he is from New Jersey, because he is. That is a very useful look, because it is a natural look. He's able to go toe-to-toe with senators, and at the same time he could be your son's Little League coach."
Judge Alito displayed a "street smart" New Jerseyan's willingness to talk back to his questioners. Unlike Chief Justice Roberts, Judge Alito often turned inquiries back on the lawyers who were quizzing him, politely asking them to spell out exactly what they meant, two participants said.Crafty! This is an excellent technique. Lawprofs use it to avoid elaborate answers. It's a good way to avoid confusing and boring listeners. It helps students mobilize their reasoning powers and practice speaking in the professional mode. With Senators, the goal is less beneficent. I'm sure they/their staff are reading this article and feeling intimidated, vulnerable. What they should do now is hone their questions. But is there any hope the Senators will give up their ridiculously verbose questions? They must preen. And how will the usual preening look when the man in the chair is from New Jersey, with ill-fitting glasses and a rumpled suit, and decades and decades of honing his skills as a prosecutor and a judge.
Judge Alito "had no bones about coming back for clarification," the same person said, adding that the judge sometimes stumped the legal experts acting in the roles of senators and suggesting that he could pose an even greater challenge to actual senators reading from staff talking points.
There's always the hope Alito will blow his cool:
Some Democrats, however, say Judge Alito's less-polished style may also be a vulnerability. Two Democratic aides briefed on his meeting with Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said that when the senator pressed him about an opinion he had written involving the regulation of machine guns, Judge Alito grew defensive - something else Chief Justice Roberts never did. The aides, speaking anonymously because the meeting was private, said the episode led them to hope he might lose his cool in front of the committee, as well.In other words: "a 'street smart' New Jerseyan's willingness to talk." Why must everything always be cool? We have some real issues and disagreements. Let's cut through the blather and really engage for a change. What would this defensiveness be? I'd guess, for example, about the machine gun case, that Schumer led with the usual policy talk about gun control and the usual self-serving insistence on endless congressional power, and Alito insisted on nailing down the actual doctrine as expressed in the Lopez case and as duly interpreted by a lower court judge one year later. If he did that with questions to Schumer, designed to make Schumer reframe his question as one appropriately put to a judge, I'm sure there was some loss of cool in the room.
Bring it on! I'm so ready to blog that.
IN THE COMMENTS: OhioAnne writes astutely:
Interesting choice of words made in the article.
People participating in the administration meetings spoke anonymously "out of fear of White House reprisals," but Schumer"s aides spoke anonymously because "the meeting was private."
No chance that the White House aides spoke anonymously because the meeting was private and Schumer's did because of fear of reprisals from him?
Any chance at all that both sets of aides spoke anonymously simply because they knew they were being unprofessional by failing to adhere to confidentiality restrictions?
UPDATE: Scott Shields at MyDD calls the linked NYT article "one of the most brazen examples I've ever seen of the media rewriting Republican talking points." What's gotten under his skin?
Alito's Republican handlers are pushing this silly "Everyman" narrative in an attempt to manage public expectations. Oh, he's not being combative -- he's just a Jersey Everyman. But is that really what people want in a Supreme Court nominee?...It sounds to me as though Shields is just trying to keep the anti-Alito folks fired up and resents any positive press (especially from the newspaper he thinks he ought to be able to count on to keep up the heat). And this press isn't even that positive.
I have no idea what Alito's confirmation hearings will look like. But the Republicans who do seem to think it's not going to be pretty. After such a clean confirmation with Roberts, messy hearings for Alito do not bode well. "Everyman" or not, it sounds like Alito's in for a bumpy ride.