November 17, 2005

What a horrendous pro-Alito ad!

From the Committee For Justice. View it at this link for the full effect with cheesy visuals and cornball patriotic trumpet music. Here's the text:
In 1990, the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed Samuel Alito to serve on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

Today, liberal groups led by People for the American Way oppose Judge Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court. Their agenda is clear.

They want to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance and are fighting to redefine traditional marriage. They support partial birth abortion, sanction the burning of the American flag, and even oppose pornography filters on public library computers.

Do these groups represent you? If not, call your Senators. Tell them to support Judge Alito.
I support Alito, but I am disgusted by this kind of argument in favor of him. Alito is a judge, not a political candidate. This is very similar to the way the White House presented Harriet Miers, as a social conservative who would vote for outcomes that would please social conservatives. The Alito nomination corrected the mistake that was made with Miers. He's a well-qualified, experienced judge who appears to have a sound judicial temperament. Don't try to help him by making it sound as though he's not.


Richard Fagin said...

Prof. Althouse, this will sound like a too-lawyerly by half response, but the ad you criticize didn't make the explcit suggestion that Judge Alito would hold for outcomes that please social conservative. Rather, the ad correctly characterized Judge Alito's principal opponent as supporting outcomes that please social liberals irrespective of the law.

The left has been quite successful in appealing to the worst emotional instincts in people, facts notwithstanding, in part because it gets a free ride from the press. It is unseemly for the right to engage in the same tactics, but short of publication of falsehood, a little turn about isn't just fair play, it's needed for survival.

Anonymous said...

From today's NY Times:

"[Reid, Kennedy and Schumer] spoke a day before a coalition of liberal groups is expected to announce plans for a national television advertising campaign opposing confirmation."

Unfortunately, we may be yearning for a bygone era when the judiciary was not so politicized. But Richard Fagin is right, that social conservatives must respond in kind.

As I recall, Ann, you correctly criticized a much more outrageous NARAL anti-Roberts ad and it was pulled shortly afterward.

It is also unfortunate that so many federal court decisions are now made based on politics, not law. Most of the time, for cases involving hot-button political issues (from the environment to abortion to national defense to prisoners' rights, etc.) you can understand the court decision by looking to see who appointed the judges.

And the politicization of the judiciary shows no signs of lessening.

Peter Hoh said...

Many of the so-called People for the American Way are Hollywood types, like Alec Baldwin, who don't even live in Springfield.

Peter Hoh said...

Sorry for the Simpsons reference, but I couldn't think of anything the Three Stooges had to say on the matter of third party advocacy ads.

goesh said...

Dumb me, wanting him to be rated and voted on for his 15 years on the bench, with no casting of yarrow stalks and reading of tea leaves in the process. We get a White House counselor who has been scurrying around behind closed doors much of her life with no bench time, then we get a seasoned veteran like Alito and it's the same political bullshit. I grow weary of it.

Performing Bear said...

Now, now, let's not be naive. All judges--even Performing Bear was no exception-- are somewhat outcome-determinative and are called upon to apply principles of public policy in their decision-making. Take only the Common Law to make the point.

He's either a conservative or he's not. He may be--and I think he is-- tempermentally restrained and duly deferential to the so-called democratic branches of the government, but that doesn't mean he won't vote the way the Committe for Justice feels more often than the way People for the American Way feel.

The selection of a Supreme Court justice is a political process and Judge Alito is a political candidate. Whether he gets the votes he needs will depend, in part, on the pressure put on senators by their constituents and their affinity groups.

the pooka said...

brylin said:

"Unfortunately, we may be yearning for a bygone era when the judiciary was not so politicized."

If so, then it fits with all the other yearnings (mostly) conservatives have for eras that never existed in the first place. When was the era in question? The Warren Court? The 1930s, when the the Four Horseman were at war with FDR? The 1870s and 1880s, when the members of the Court were at each others' throats over the Legal Tender cases and the first Civil Rights Act?

So has it always been, and to no greater extent today than ever. We need not like it, but we best get used to it.

Lonesome Payne said...

What we keep discovering to our chagrin is the W crew seems all too willing to make disrespectful self-demeaning arguments for issues that would actually benefit from a thorough and respectful approach.

neil said...

I support Alito... Alito is a judge, not a political candidate


gs said...

I share Ann's disgust.

Maybe political professionals find it convenient to have an factional electorate of Pavlovian automatons who are primarily motivated by indignation. The ubiquitous lowest-common-denominator demagoguery could imply a tacit understanding on both sides to simplify the game by removing wild cards.

I agree with the pooka that we should be used to this. It is dangerous for the country if we are reconciled to it.

sean said...

Pooka, are you claiming that judicial nominations were always partisan donnybrooks with intellectually dishonest campaign commercials being run on both sides? That is surely untrue.

Buck said...

I cringed when I saw the ad.

That said, the ad will play very well here in rural New Mexico. I absolutely HATE it when a party, either party, pushes the hot buttons. But, as others have said, I guess I'd better get used to it.

SamuelAlito said...

I hope that none of you think I had anything to do with the ad myself.

I'm mainly mad that these guys used the old picture of me in which it looks like I have less hair.


Anonymous said...

Here's a recent example of the politization of the judiciary:

"District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, a Clinton appointee with a reputation for judicial activism, blocked the trial by a U.S. military commission of a captured enemy combatant who was the first litigant of Ratner's Center for Constitutional Rights."

As for bygone times, try the confirmation of Byron "Whizzer" White in 1962. Or take just about any Supreme Court nominee before Robert Bork.

the pooka said...


That's exactly what I'm saying.

Browse here for a sampler from 70 or so years ago.

vbspurs said...


That's exactly what I'm saying.

Browse here for a sampler from 70 or so years ago.

But that's FDR -- whom the Establishment reviled.

He wasn't the first populist president (Hello Andrew Jackson), but he was surely the most politically divisive man to hold office in the US, in his first two terms. Yes, even counting Nixon, Reagan, and Bush2 (note how all of these men are Republicans, whereas FDR was a Democrat).

The link correctly shows that he wanted to up the Supreme Court by 6 members, as well as piling on the Lower Courts with his judge-appointees, the better to allow his New Deal programmes to pass.

That caused (rightly) an absolute furore when announced.

Tangential anecdote: When I was in training to be a Clerk of a Polling Precinct for the Nov. '04 elections, the lady next to me, a retired federal court judge, was going on and on about how she was doing this to safeguard the elections process, since she thought the President and the Repubs would try to "stuff" the, erm, computer boxes...when I brought up the FDR episode of trying to "stuff" the SCOTUS by appointing 6 new justices, she STFU.

People, all people, have short memories when it comes to how politicised events were, when "your guy" was in power.


vbspurs said...

Darling, it was funny for Harriet and Benedict. Maybe.

But after a while, you begin to wonder out loud about people who do this:

They're either 16 years old, who have lots of time on their hands, or they're a 45 year-old man with no life.

Let's hope for your sake you're Option A.


Rafique Tucker said...

You're surprised? This is to sort of tactic that has become standard form in the war over "activist judges." This ad is thoroughly disgusting, but hardly unexpected, or even the worst of it.

In Harriet Miers, far-right conservatives weere disappointed because they wanted a reliable activist. (Of course, there were principled people on all sides who legitimately saw that Miers was just a bad choice). In Alito, the right has their golden pick now, and they wil fight for him, to the death it seems.

Mark said...

It's funny I thought what conservatives wanted was an up or down vote? Oh yeah unless they decide a candidate doesn't deserve one and as long as it isn't Democrats doing it. I get it now.

Purple Avenger said...

Alito is a judge, not a political candidate

If you want the public to "engage their senators on the issue" you need to "sell him" like a side of beef -- just like a politician.

I think the "pitch" is too premature though.

Bruce Hayden said...

As to Miers, our esteemed hostess ultimately came out against her, and I don't think that even the rabid moonbats on the extreme left consider Ann an arch conservative. The moonbats on the right surely don't think so either, given the sexist things said about her on LGF.

Sean R. said...

Committee for Justice responds to Prof. Althouse at

Andy Johnson said...

The problem is that Congress has delegated it's legislative authority to the Executive and Judicial branches of government.

The fight over appointments allows them to be brave by proxy. It gives the appearance of decisive action, but removes them from the consequences of voter displeasure.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I haven't a TV. The ad, as described, seems unpleasant and unnecessarily polarizing to me. Perhaps I am naive, and such things are necessary, but I would wish conservatives would come up with a better argument than "Hey, they did it first." I support the Alito nomination, but wish for higher standards in promoting him.

OTOH, I have been pointing out for years that Winston Churchill once said "The truth is such a precious commodity in wartime that it must be surrounded by a bodyguard of lies," and a false piety of refusing to stoop so low would have lost us WWII.

Matt Evans said...

I'm just joining the conversation about the new CFJ television ad, but I think it's extremely effective at reframing the left's claim that Alito is "out of the mainstream." By reminding the public what Alito's critics mean when they say "mainstream" -- removing God from the Pledge of Allegiance, redefining marriage, protecting partial birth abortion at every stage of pregnancy, and ensuring pornography access on public library computers used by children, CFJ inoculates viewers from the ridiculous complaints about Alito being unacceptable.

[cross posted at the Committee for Justice blog]

Anonymous said...

As mentioned above, now there is a

"... new TV advertisement of the liberal coalition opposing Alito's confirmation by the Senate. The ad claimed Alito, as a federal appellate judge, "even voted to approve the strip search of a 10-year-old girl."

Ann, does this disgust you too?

Which ad is more of a distortion?

Anonymous said...

Here's the link to the above-mentioned strip search ad so you can compare and determine which is more of a distortion.

Ann Althouse said...

Brylin: Of course I'm disgusted by the attacks on Alito. I've been critical of those too. I'm critical of them in this post when I say don't stoop to that level!

Anonymous said...

One television network finds

"the [Alliance for Justice] spot is factually incorrect."

I repeat my question, which ad is more disgusting?

Anonymous said...

From the San Diego Union-Tribune editorial entitled The Smear Is On:

"Repulsively enough, however, the partisan left is using Doe v. Groody not only to call Alito a fascist but to suggest he is a "pervert" and a "degenerate," to quote some of the many slurs on, the popular and influential political Web site. This is depraved."