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Whose Confirmation Hearing Is This Anyway? Hannity And Hatch Try To Make The Alito Hearings About Democrats.

Reported by Ellen - January 13, 2006

After four days of hearings into a possible lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land, the only issue Sean Hannity wanted to discuss was the behavior of Democrats. Expansion of executive powers? Roe v. Wade? Individual civil liberties? No biggie. The really important question for the suddenly sensitive Hannity and Senator Orrin Hatch was whether or not Ted Kennedy was too much of a meanie. Can there be any doubt of their conclusion? Fortunately, Alan Colmes and a Yale law professor reminded them that the real subject is Alito.

It was a better-balanced line-up of Alito guests last night than it has been the rest of the week. Republican Senator Orrin Hatch and Law Professor Ronald Sullivan, who testified at the hearing, were the only guests. However, there have now been two Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee (Hatch and Lindsey Graham) and no Democrats.

Hannity opened the discussion with Hatch by complaining, for the zillionth time, about Kennedy’s questions during the Bork and Clarence Thomas hearings, then moved on to blaming Kennedy for accusing “an innocent man” (meaning Alito) of racism and lying and for making Alito’s wife’s cry. Hannity asked dramatically, “At what point do Senators have to stand up to Senator Kennedy and say, ‘Senator, stop besmirching innocent people’s characters.’ I don’t hear anybody saying that.”

Hatch, of course, agreed. “I don’t know why he’s acting like this. To be honest with you, he was way out of line… This is beneath the dignity of the US Senate and I really think the Democrats have got to clean up their act.” Hatch then pulled the old “We didn’t do this with Ginsburg” line, completely disregarding (until Colmes reminded him later) that Ginsburg was a consensus nominee suggested by Hatch. Instead, Hatch pretended that Ginsburg was confirmed out of respect for Clinton. (See Media Matters for more on this Republican myth) “It’s just pathetic,” Hatch rightly concluded – but for the wrong reasons.

Hannity then complained about “the outright lies” told in the hearings. “Why do they get away with that?” he asked. Minutes later, he’d be repeating some of his own phony chestnuts.

When it was Colmes’ turn, he told Hatch, “There’s a difference between an accusation and an attack and a tough question… I don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking very specific tough questions for somebody who will serve the rest of his natural life, likely, on the highest court of the land. I think it’s important.”

But according to Hatch, the Democrats broke some unspoken rule and were just too aggressive in trying to pin down Alito’s evasive answers about recusal and his membership in Concerned Alumni of Princeton that he “didn’t remember.” Hatch said, “I think bringing up these two matters up once might have been enough. But bringing them up six, seven times?”

It wasn’t until the next guest, Yale Law Professor Ronald Sullivan, who testified before the Committee earlier in the day, that any of the substance of Alito’s judicial philosophy was discussed and then only briefly. When asked by Colmes what his concerns were about Alito, Sullivan replied, “In hotly contested issues, where there is space for Judge Alito to exercise discretion, he overwhelming exercises discretion in the favor of the government… There’s a striking consistency with respect to that tendency.”

Colmes then played a clip of Alito saying that war powers are split between the president and Congress. “Isn’t the Constitution pretty clear that Congress declares war? I find that a troubling answer.”

Sullivan said that when Alito balances interests, “he tilts his analysis in the favor of the (executive branch).” That was it for the substance of Alito’s beliefs (although it's enough to scare me away from the guy).

Colmes noted that while Democrats were being heavily criticized for asking tough questions, he wasn’t sure they had “focused enough” on these particular issues and others concerning presidential powers, such as the issue of wiretapping.

Then it was Hannity’s turn and he went right back to making the discussion about Democrats. “Look, you disagree with (Alito's) judicial philosophy, I have no problem with that. I disagree with the judicial philosophy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg who thought we ought to lower the age of consent to 12 (Lie #1), a former general counsel of the ACLU who thought there might be a constitutional right to polygamy (Lie #2). But the bottom line is, we elect presidents and presidents appoint these judges and the Republicans have shown a lot of deference to Democrats when they make selections (Lie #3, forgetting that the Republicans blocked many more of Clinton’s appointments than Democrats blocked of Bush’s)… If (Democrats) want a different type of justice, then they’ve got to win the election, don’t they?”

Sullivan promptly ended that line of reasoning by saying, “When the framers decided on this process, they made it a political process. The president nominates, and then the senate gives its advice and consent… To the degree one side defers to the executive in the decision, that’s a voluntary deferral. But I don’t think it’s mandated in the Constitution.”

Hannity, obviously frustrated, said “If that’s the case, then the next time a Ruth Bader Ginsburg, with an extremist left judicial philosophy (Lie #4), goes before the senate, they ought not give due deference, they ought not acknowledge that the president won the election and they should follow in the path of Ted Kennedy.” Hannity who has got to be the biggest pot calling the kettle black, complained again that the process had become too politicized.

“I’m not saying that they should reject them on political grounds. What I am saying is that judicial philosophy is an appropriate area of inquiry.” He said that the president “ought to get a great deal of deference with respect to say, cabinet positions,” because they are term limited, and will end when the president leaves office but the Supreme Court is a lifetime appointment.

Hannity had no answer.

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