The Democrats’ big gun, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D.-N.Y.), was supposed to knock Samuel Alito dead with his questions. That’s what you expect of Schumer, and that’s the impression he left with viewers of NBC News’ "Meet the Press" on Sunday.
But Schumer’s performance was far from superb. In fact, you might say it was a total flop. Alito didn’t come close to squirming under the spotlight of the all-powerful Schumer. And no sooner was Schumer done with his questions when Sen. John Cornyn (R.-Tex.) took him to task for misrepresenting Alito’s views.
Now, Senate Democrats give us a "fact sheet," which compares Alito to Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia and Robert Bork. That’s good company to be in, if you ask me. But I digress.
Is this all the Democrats can come up with?
Below is the "fact sheet" put out following Schumer’s questioning.
Judge Alito said today that he would keep an “open mind” when ruling on abortion cases. He also said today that he had no agenda: “And if I had been out to implement some sort of agenda to uphold any abortion regulation that came along, then I would not have voted the way I did . . .“ [1/10/06]
In an exchange with Senator Schumer, Judge Alito also said he would decide cases carefully: “And then if I were to get beyond that, if the court were to get beyond the issue of stare decisis, then I would have to go through the whole judicial decision-making process before reaching a conclusion.” [1/10/06]
However, nominees in the past have also said that they have no agenda and have pledged to keep an open mind.
Justice Thomas repeatedly said he had an open mind:
• … I think that it is most important for me to remain open. I have no agenda. I am open about that important case. I work to be open and impartial on all the cases on which I sit. I can say on that issue and on those cases I have no agenda. I have an open mind, and I can function strongly as a judge. (Hearings on the Nomination of Clarence Thomas to be Associate Justice of the Supreme Court p. 244)
• I have no agenda, Senator. I have tried to here, as well as in my other endeavors as a judge, remain impartial, to remain open-minded, and I am open-minded on this particular important issue. (Thomas Hearings, p. 294)
• Senator, I indicated that I think it is important that I retain an open mind and that I don’t have an opinion on that important case. (Thomas Hearings, p. 296)
• Senator, I would not only make that promise on this important issue, not only to this committee but, if confirmed, to the American people, and to myself. It is my solemn oath. I cannot sit as a judge if that is not the way that I proceed on those cases. And that is a promise that I take very deeply and understand and appreciate and feel strongly about, on all cases, that I approach them with an open mind and for the individuals involved with an open heart. (Thomas Hearings, p. 324)
• It is my hope that when these hearings are completed that this committee will conclude that I am an honest, decent, fair person. I believe that the obligations and responsibilities of a judge, in essence, involve just such basic values. A judge must be fair and impartial. A judge must not bring to his job, to the court, the baggage of preconceived notions, of ideology, and certainly not an agenda, and the judge must get the decision right.” (Thomas Hearings, p.110.)
• “A judge is to remain impartial. I believe that it is one thing to sit in the executive branch and to take policy positions and to advocate and to disagree with the Court and to challenge the Court. It is another thing to be a judge and to be called upon to be the final arbiter in some of the most difficult cases in our country. And I think neutrality is absolutely essential.” (Thomas Hearings, at 353.)
Justice Scalia: “I assure you, I have no agenda. I am not going onto the Court with a list of things that I want to do. My only agenda is to be a good judge. I decide the cases brought before me. And I try to decide them according to the law as best as I can figure it out. But it is not a programmatic matter, as far as I am concerned.” (Hearings on the Nomination of Antonin Scalia to be Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, at 39.)
Robert Bork: “I have no ideological agenda and if I did, it would not do me any good because nobody else on the Court has an ideological agenda and I do not intend, if confirmed, to be the only person up there, running around with a political agenda. In fact, nothing in my record suggests I have a political or ideological agenda.” (Hearings on the Nomination of Robert H. Bork to be Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, at 667-68.)
“The judge’s authority derives entirely from the fact that he is applying the law and not his personal values.” (Bork Hearings, at 103.)