Thursday, January 12

Mainstream U.S.A.

Senator Schumer cut to the chase in his opening statement at the Alito hearings this week:

To me the pivotal question, which will determine my vote is this: Are you within the mainstream – albeit the conservative mainstream . . .

I understand that this profession of open-mindedness is one of those obligatory rituals, like a pop star confiding that, ohmigod, she is such a down-to-earth gal who just loves burgers and never works out, but it makes me wonder how the distinguished gentleman can look himself in the mirror each morning (probably by pretending it's a television screen, but I digress).

Taking the bait, however, if this is really Senator Schumer's litmus test, then hasn't it been satisfied by Alito's unanimous or near-unanimous endorsement by Senate Republicans and by several Democrats? If Alito receives votes from any Senate Democrats and Senator Schumer votes against him, won't that put the lie to Senator Schumer's test?

Conservatives--without exception, to my knowledge--support Alito's nomination, as do many judges from his own court, both Democrat and Republican appointees, who have taken the unprecedented step of asking to testify on his behalf. Senator Schumer should be careful, because this sounds awfully like the conservative mainstream to me.

And two of Judge Alito’s former clerks, now married, who live and work in San Francisco and describe themselves as social-progressive Democrats, have decided to speak out in opposition to the attacks from groups they support in other contexts. In Jim Goniea’s words:

I'm a Democrat. I voted for Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. I did not vote for George W. Bush, and I'm not supportive of his administration. Personally, I think it's a disaster for this country. . . The one thing I can say is that a decision . . . by George W. Bush that I agree with is the decision to nominate Judge Alito to the Supreme Court.

Frankly, this gives me the heebie-jeebies, as nobody knows a judge quite like his clerks, but I hope the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee—including Senator Feinstein—are listening.

But I'm wasting precious virtual ink taking Senator Schumer at his word.

In Senator Schumer's world, any notion of what a mainstream American, let alone a mainstream conservative, might believe was abandoned long ago. Senator Schumer is irretrievably entrenched in the Coalition for a Fair and Independent Judiciary camp, a Star-Wars canteen of leftist attack groups that includes the Alliance for Justice, People For the American Way, the National Women's Law Center, the AFL-CIO, the Feminist Majority, Friends of the Earth, NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Organization for Women, California La Raza Lawyers, and (for a longer, but not complete list, look here).

Former Energy Secretary and U.S. Senator (and, I believe, first cabinet member of Arab descent) Spencer Abraham performed a useful service yesterday by calling out members of the Coalition by exposing some of their policy and litigation positions. To wit:

Leading the charge to abolish the death penalty, despite majority support for it among the American people;

Fighting to secure voting rights for convicted felons;

Opposing efforts to enforce federal laws against illegal aliens, including the deportation of aliens convicted of felonies;

Supported videos comparing President Bush to Hitler and his administration to the Nazis (n.b., these ads were not produced by, but were submitted as part of a contest., however, had no problem hosting them on its website until public pressure convinced them to take them down. This article describes the climate of Bush=Hitlerism among's allies and major sponsors);

Removing public Christmas and Chanukah displays;

Deleting the phrase “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance;

Banning Christmas carols in schools and public facilities;

Banning the Boy Scouts from a San Diego park on the theory that use of a public park by the tradition-oriented Scouts represents an unconstitutional establishment of religion;

Eliminating the First Amendment's obscenity exception (scroll down to "Q: Why does the ACLU object to the obscenity exception to the First Amendment?");

Insisting on constitutional protection for partial-birth abortion;

Attacking popular spousal and parental abortion notification laws;

Opposing school-voucher programs, even for the victims of Hurricane Katrina;

Abolishing laws prohibiting polygamy, (ACLU of Utah legal director Stephen Clark.: "Talking to [polygamists] is like talking to gays and lesbians who really want the right to live their lives, and not live in fear because of whom they love. So certainly that kind of privacy expectation is something the ACLU is committed to protecting." Right. But doesn't this somewhat undermine the same-sex marriage mantra that support for that cause will not lead down a slippery slope to incestuous or polyamorous marriages?); and

Requiring “single stall gender-neutral restroom facilities” on campuses.

Noble causes all, to be sure, but hardly mainstream, even within Senator Schumer's party. But Senator Schumer wouldn't know the mainstream if he were drowning in it.