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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Alito on trial

Samuel Alito made a telling point in his opening statement -- a judge should be judged on his decisions from the bench and not on the positions he took as an advocate. On that basis, he should be rejected by the Senate.

A look at his 15-year record as an appeals court judge shows someone with a deference to authority and presidential power -- and someone out of the mainstream on basic, everyday issues. Frankly, if a liberal had approved of the notion of allowing unfettered access to machine guns or the strip searching of 10-year-old the moral and compassionate right would have that judge's scalp for abusing the rights of common, decent folks.

But it is Alito's deference to presidential authority that is most frightening -- even more terrifying than his less than forthright answers on a woman's right to choose (and the attached right to privacy that most conservatives reject as overreaching by the court).

And that's why it is encouraging that Arlen Specter (yeah, he still gives me the creeps from his Anita Hill performance) chose to focus on the issue of presidential power as well as privacy in his opening remarks.

With a rogue administration that refuses to acknowledge any bounds for its actions -- from lying to spying -- it is imperative that the checks and balances envisioned by the founders actually work (isn't that a strict interpretation of the Constitution?) Since Congress has abdicated that role in the pursuit of lucre, the job must fall to the last redoubt - the courts.

That is truly why the right has been on a crusade against a "liberal" judiciary.

That is also why the Jackson concurrence cited by Specter and likely to be mentioned countless times in the days ahead is crucial. It sets out clear tests on the extent of presidential authority -- and it is noteworthy that Justice Jackson had been FDR's attorney general and seen that awesome power first hand.

Whether the president fudging the truth is Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton or George W. Bush, there is a need for limits on presidential power. Samuel Alito's writings indicate he doesn't believe in that. Whether that opinion came as an advocate or a judge is irrelevant, because it shows a profound lack of respect for checks and balances -- and a flawed reading of the Constitution.

We are already suffering from someone who used the argument that "when I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible." We don't need someone else whose "youthful indiscretions" toward the law could send us further down the slippery slope of unchecked executive power.

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