PFAW's Push Against Alito Is Weak

Yesterday, People for the American Way (PFAW), kicked off their “Stop Alito!” campaign, with a briefing by PFAW Vice President Elliot Mincberg and General Counsel and Legal Director Gregg Haifley followed by some phone banking at their M Street headquarters.

If the volunteer turnout is any indicator of PFAW’s chances of success with this campaign, conservatives need not be worried. Including myself, I only counted nine people outside of PFAW employees and the small camera crew filming some kind of documentary on the Supreme Court nomination process present.

The briefing didn’t turn out to be more than a rehashing of typical liberal spin on Alito. Mincberg’s best description of Alito was simply a “danger to everything we care about.” He said Alito will pit business against the little guy and “When it’s business against the little guy, the little guy loses.” He went on to talk about Alito’s previous decisions on discrimination against women, the Family Medical Leave Act (which Alito’s decision later ended up being against Rehnquist), his machine gun decision and of course, Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Mincberg said “Alito is not bombastic like Scalia…[he’s]quiet, but in my view, a radical decision maker.”

Haifley then picked up the talk and railed against right wing groups who came “right out of the box” supporting Alito, but quickly defended PFAW’s quick opposition to the nominee. He said, “Not that we’re being knee-jerk…we know this guy, his record and the consequences of his nomination.”

Haifley compounded his contradictions continuing, “We will be culling through his records trying to flesh out a portrait of who this person is and what he stands for,” by combing through all of his speeches and writings, “especially those of the Federalist Society.”

Before going to a short question and answer session, Haifley ended with his concerns about the Gang of 14. He said some were simply not in the Gang to protect filibuster, but as “plants from the administration.” He didn’t mention names, but remarked is was highly questionable Senators DeWine and Graham would fire the nuclear option.

In the end, it was clear from the briefing PFAW doesn’t have a clear strategy to block Alito’s confirmation. The best advice offered to PFAW supporters came from Haifley when he said, “If you are going to block this guy [Alito] you are going to block him because he is an extremist.”

A short discussion followed filled with unrest that senators were reluctant to threaten filibuster on ideology alone.

Just for fun, below is the script for their phone bank:

I’m calling you today about the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. We nee your help. Since he has been nominated to replace the swing vote Sandra Day O’Connor, many precedents protecting individual rights and promoting social justice would be at risk he is confirmed.

The rest of the script walks PFAW volunteers though a 3 step process to sign callers on to the PFAW’s petition (which can be done over the phone), convincing callers to gather signatures from their family, friend and co-workers and finally, encouraging callers to call their senators to “tell them you oppose the confirmation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.