The Great Alito Debate: A Teaching Moment

While the confirmation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court is "nearly assured," the debate surrounding Alito is still important because it grants Americans "a teaching moment," according to Manuel Miranda, chairman of the Third Branch Conference, a coalition of more than 200 organizations nationwide engaged in judicial matters.

Miranda was one of three participants in a discussion Monday sponsored by Judicial Watch, a non-partisan foundation that promotes transparency and justice in matters of government, politics and law. Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton hosted the event, "Conservative Perspectives on the Alito Nomination." Jan LaRue, chief counsel for Concerned Women for America, and Roger Pilon, vice president for legal affairs at the Cato Institute, served as the other two participants.

Miranda, LaRue and Pilon all agreed that Alito is worthy of confirmation to serve as a justice on the nation’s highest court and said they see no reason to believe that will not happen.

"Anyone who questions his ability as a judge is either intentionally misleading the public or has not examined the hundreds of opinions he has written in the last 15 years as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit," LaRue said. "One cannot read Judge Alito’s opinions without being duly impressed by his deference to the Constitution, statutes, precedent, separation of powers and judicial restraint. He is a judge’s judge in every sense of the word."

Later on in the discussion LaRue said a Democratic filibuster to keep Alito from the Supreme Court would be "political suicide."

Liberals have cried "wolf" one too many times, according to Miranda. The American people no longer believe them every time they say a nominee is too far out of the mainstream and instead are learning to question those making the accusations as being too far out in left field.

"Ultimately it’s the nominee himself who will have the greatest influence because, after all the rhetoric … Samuel Alito will come across as the man and nominee and judge that he is—brilliant, careful, polished and very, very experienced in the decisions that he’s made," he said. "And so ultimately the American people will have the opportunity to see that as well."

Miranda said he has no doubt Alito’s qualifications will get him confirmed, as long as he is given an up or down vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

While Pilon said he is not directly promoting Alito’s confirmation, he said “he knows of nothing in Judge Alito’s record that would preclude my support for him or preclude his being confirmed by the Senate. On the contrary it looks like an absolutely sterling record. He looks like the kind of careful, thoughtful judge.”

But more important than the confirmation itself are the hearings scheduled for January before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he said.

The national dialogue that has erupted since the Alito nomination occurred last month is what really matters, Miranda said.

“The opportunity that is afforded by a nomination to the Supreme Court is a debate that engages everyone–our editorial pages, our reporters, our think tanks, our activists, our politicians and the American people, by and large, get a glimmer of it all–something of them more than others–but, increasingly … a larger and larger number of people are taking this issue, thinking about it, and actually going to the polls over it,” he said.

Miranda said the reason Harriet Miers was rejected isn’t because conservatives couldn’t tell whether or not she was conservative, but because they wanted a judge that would add to “the legitimacy of the court.”

Because conservatives “value the Constitution as the single-most democratic device or impulse that perhaps we’ve ever seen in human history,” they are looking at “how a judge will approach the constitution or the law and whether they will do it in a respectful way that favors what conservatives value,” he said.

Miranda added: “As the debate unfolds … we also have the opportunity to see … what the fight is really all about and it’s really to protect, and reclaim perhaps, our Constitution. Reclaim the Constitution for the American people.”