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                                       politics + culture

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

one simple sentence about Alito

With all due respect, Samuel Alito is a man.

You can gussy this up any way you want, but that is important, at least to me. I don't want an 8-1 male court. I don't want another fifty-something male Justice keeping the court dominantly male well into the middle of the 21st Century.

Call me biased, but I happen to think that women have an insight or two into the law, our bodies, family life and our society that Mssrs. Scalia, Thomas, Stevens, Breyer, Souter, Kennedy, Roberts and...Alito, as men, can't really offer. Call me crazy, but just because Bush nominated a woman that didn't pass his base's muster, doesn't just mean he's off the hook on this one.

Last time I checked, women make up fifty percent of the population. Is Bush, in nominating Alito, saying that Miers was the best woman he had to offer? It sure seems that way. Or course he could also just be saying that James Dobson is who really runs our government.

It's 2005, you know, the long-imagined "future." I guess women's equality is now something we'll be getting to in the next century huhn? I can see it now...the 22nd century, the century for women's rights, maybe then we'll get the radical possibility of three women on the Supreme Court.

If Bush, the GOP and rabid, anti-woman religious activists, in pushing their "pro-life" views on the Court and make it harder and harder to get an abortion, or the morning-after-pill, or even something as simple as honest advice from one's doctor concerning a possible pregnancy if you happen to live in a "pro-life" state...does anyone else get the stone cold shivers that this roll back would be done by an 8-1 male court?

We all know they won't get Ginsburg's vote when they try to "modify" Roe v. Wade. No, that decision would be made by men....likely Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, Kennedy and Alito. A cabal of hand-picked conservative men groomed to roll back women's rights. Any GOP pundit with an ounce of intellectual honesty should be embarassed at the prospect of Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the lone woman on the Roberts Court, especially given the cases they will certainly face. That's just wrong.

Does that come off as unfair? Sorry, but I'm not about to turn over the rest of my adult life, and my children's formative years, to Scalia, Roberts, Thomas, Kennedy and Alito, no matter what warm and fuzzy bullshit that hypocrites like Kristol and Brooks spout. Personally, I think there should be a law that all conservative pundits should have to raise their families and live out their years in front-line states like Indiana, Mississippi or Utah where the opinions they "proffer" actually mean something in one's day to day life.

David Brooks day to day life in Manhattan won't change much with Alito...but for poor women in Mississippi, or migrant workers in Arizona, or gay teens in rural Colorado, or Kartrina evacuees in Texas...who is on the Supreme Court makes an enormous difference. Brooks should wipe the smarm off his face. He's got what he wanted with Bush; he just doesn't have to live with it.

The Alito nomination comes down to this. Bush should not be allowed to put up two pro-life, conservative men, no matter how sterling their legal pedigrees, or how nice they look with their wife and children standing by their sides. Our Senators should oppose this, and demand better. In my view, we should demand a moderate, centrist woman with a solid record, and some real world experience. That would be appropriate.

The truth is regarding Roberts and Alito, it was one or the other...not both. That's politics, not a litmus test. It breaks down like this:

For most of human history, women took the back seat to men. Samuel Alito, it's pretty clear, is more than comfortable with that.

I'm not. I think equality is more than a nice word. It means something. And, to all my conservative bethren...yes, women and men are different in some ways...which is why I'd like to see a Supreme Court with more than one woman on it, thank you very much.

If we're going to make a real change on the issue of women's equality..some "nice guys" are going to have to learn something that women know all to well: just because you're qualified, doesn't mean you get the job. Alito won't starve. There's no shame is being a prominent judge who wasn't quite John Roberts.

Samuel Alito's nomination should not come to a vote on the Senate floor.


  • Are you unhappy that Bush has nominated a male, or just a male that will fail to fully protect women's rights? Would an Edith Brown Clement be a better choice? Would it be better if the axe that falls on women's rights were held by a woman?

    By Blogger Matt, at 2:21 PM  

  • matt--interesting question...Kid?

    By Blogger NYBri, at 6:34 PM  

  • I think a couple things:

    One, race and gender equity doesn't just "happen"...equity, or fairness, is a value based on the understanding that diversity creates both a positive strength (better debate, more rounded points of view) and a legitimacy that its absence lacks. You don't get diversity by "happy accident" even though I would argue that equitabe representation is a force multiplier for good in a multi-cultural heterogeneous society like ours.

    Structures that are supposed to represent everyone, and yet underepresent some of us are both LESS legitimate and WEAKER as institutions, whatever the meritocratic appeals used to argue that say, a Roberts or an Alito is the "best qualified" to serve.

    Best qualified to be Justice? Or best qualified to serve our nation's best interests as Justice? And on what grounds are they "best"?

    There's a difference. And the grounds, and the assumptions those grounds imply, are extremely significant.

    One could line up the nine highest scores on a 'Supreme Court Aptitude test', and while, one might find some great Justices, and the Court itself might make fine decisions...if that court were made up exclusively of white men...it would be less legitimate, and have a shallower pool of experience to serve the nation: which, at the end of the day, is the job of every democratic institution..

    Diversity and equity of representation are values that make our institutions STRONGER. Legitimate representation is extraordinarily important. We fought a revolution over it.

    Second, I find the cynicism and lack of transparency in the critiques of my Supreme Court writing extremely frustrating.

    Am I "unhappy"? That's a poor word choice.

    My political position is that I strongly disagree with choosing two conservative, pro-life men to replace Rehnquist and O'Connor.

    Bush's decision to do this moves the debate about Alito, for me, away from the "particulars" of Alito's qualifications, as it very well might be for a woman nominee like Clement...and into the broader philosophical question of whether we want an 8-1 male Court.

    Clement, like Thomas, if she does not really "represent" the broad interests of her gender...is not a "legitimate" nominee. There aren't "litmus tests" here...but a woman who would "bring the axe down" on women's rights is OBVIOUSLY no more acceptable to me than a man who would do the same. The same applies for an African American who refuses, for the most part, to give voice to mainstream African American points of view. Thomas is a disaster for the most part in terms, not of "representing," but of ADDING the point of view of a person of color to the court. He hasn't added much.

    A conservative woman, a moderate woman (my vote), or a liberal woman might all ADD the value and legitimacy of a woman's point of view to the Court, thereby enhancing how it serves our democracy. They might each do so in divergent ways. That would not make their points of view illegitimate....just more or less conservative or liberal. Everything is ideological and political; I don't care what anyone says. The "appeal to abandon partisanship" is quite often the most partisan appeal in US political life.

    I have to admit that I am frustrated by cynics and what I see as "gotcha politics" of some of the comments lately....because in my view everything is political: hence when you chose to "rip on someone" or "take down an ally" as I feel some have done here. (Not Matt, who I see as asking a question)...

    you poison the well.

    Debate that is constructive...gets somewhere. It starts something. That is, at the end of the day, then kind of debate I seek for our Supreme Court.

    Bush, in my view gave up a substantial benefit of the doubt that goes to a president in making the Miers nomination, then withdrawing it under pressure from the Right, and then pitching another White Male Pro-Life Conservative.

    When I come out and talk about gender vis a vis Alito, that is the context. And I am joining Senator Salazar who said the exact same thing today, leaving open the possiblity of a filibuster.

    That's why and how I write. There's reasons behind it. Always.

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 7:46 PM  

  • It appears that Miers wasn't a good choice. But right from the start people who knew absolutely nothing about her work or capabilities felt completely free to tear her to ribbons. They began by drawing attention to her worst quality, going along with her less intelligent, and much lazier, overlords. But they failed to acknowledge the reality that this quality was also the thing that allowed her to survive in an enormously hostile environment. Making herself indispensible to others who more easily fit the image or preconception of "success" allowed her to continue. I guess I can't help sympathizing with that to some degree.
    While Miers would certainly not have been my choice, I would definitely have preferred her over Alito. To my way of thinking he's probably less "qualified" than Miers.
    As somebody who's been practicing law for more than 20 years, I can bear witness to the fact that there are probably thousands of women in the country who are at least as capable of being a supreme court judge as John Roberts or Samuel Alito. If you read the opinions of Roberts or Alito, there's really nothing exceptional about them in terms of scholarship or legal reasoning. They don't demonstrate any true wisdom or insight. They've added nothing to our body of jurisprudence. Further, Alito places his own interests above those of the law or justice by issuing dissenting opinions that have no real necessity - other than to create a "conservative" record for himself.
    I think people have been made to believe, falsely, that there are only a handful of people in the country who are sufficiently "brilliant" to be a great supreme court justice. But, in fact, constitutional law is not an extremely complicated or difficult subject for any good and thoughtful lawyer. It's the policy impications that pose the real challenge. Making policy decisions with enormously broad and long-lasting implications requires a judge who is exceptional in the sense of being particularly capable of making wise and insightful judgments, not just about the law, but about how the law impacts people in the real world. Imagination and experience in the world should be just as important as legal ability. Some people would have us believe that the law is black and white and that the "right" and "wrong" answers can be found in objective reality.
    Court cases,however, particularly those that reach the supreme court, involve the gray areas. Therefore, the best judges are those are capable of discerning between very subtle shades of gray while, at the same time, wisely balancing a host of competing interests.

    By Blogger pdxleft, at 9:36 PM  

  • Oops that was my comment, not pdxleft's. I'm not so sure she'd prefer Miers.

    By Anonymous justwondering, at 9:50 PM  

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