Today, the Samuel Alito hearings began.
To begin with, the outcome is a foregone conclusion: Because Republicans won 55 seats in the Senate, they have the votes to confirm Mr. Alito, and unless he makes a major gaffe on the stand a la Bork's 'intellectual feast' remark (and he is smart enough to avoid that, and further has been prepped to an unprecedented degree in order to avoid it), they will vote to confirm him. Just in case anyone forgot, I was fully in favor of a hearing for Harriet Miers, and this is one reason why.
Alito's past leaning (and it is not a unanimous lean, to be sure, but a most-of-the-time lean) has been to support restrictions on individual rights, and a strengthening of the powers of the state and especially the executive branch. This is a serious concern, especially coming just at the moment when we see an unprecedented assault on individual rights by the state through such mechanisms as the Padilla case (remember that in theory if they can hold US citizen Padilla indefinitely without charges, as they were until a few weeks ago, then they can do the same to you-- a label like 'enemy combatant' means whatever the administration in power at any given time decides it means), and the recent revelations that they are monitoring many, many telephone calls and opening the private mail even of people who have no ties to terrorists. It is hard to imagine that Alito will be anything other than a vote to greatly expand Federal power.
Conservatives like to claim that they are 'strict constructionists' in explaining, for example, opposition to abortion rights, the right to privacy and other rights not specifically listed in the Constitution. They claim that if it isn't listed there, then it is not a right. It seems, however, that some of them haven't read the Constitution all the way through. Probably the least well known article in the Bill of Rights, the IX amendment, states quite clearly that:
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
In other words, it is very true that the Constitution doesn't specify a right of privacy (which there was hardly a need for in the days of the founding fathers, where even a President like James Madison, when he first moved to Washington, could go out and buy household goods and generally was not recognized unless his more social wife was with him.) But the IX Amendment means that the lack of a specifically written right of privacy should NOT BE CONSTRUED (Websters: 'construed' means 'interpreted') as meaning that there is none. The idea that because it isn't there allows an unprecedented assault on your privacy is exactly what the ninth amendment was designed to protect against (what else would you call someone from the Homeland Security Department thumbing through your personal mail (and 'papers' ARE mentioned in the IV amendment as not to be searched except for probable cause, by the way.)
It is amazing how conservatives are willing to cite the Constitution as the basis for their argument and then avoid actually following it.
What is really frightening is this: With Alito joining Scalia, Thomas and new chief justice Roberts on the Supreme Court, the back-and-forth unpredictability of Anthony Kennedy, and the health of Stevens' heart, is all that stands between the conservatives and their gaining ultimate control over the last branch of government that they haven't yet. If there is one silver lining to the Alito confirmation it is this-- most people, even a lot of Republicans, aren't completely comfortable with neo-cons having 100% control over the whole government. If you are like me and live in a state with a Senate race, you may want to take advantage of the fact and point out that the results of the 2006 Senate elections will be crucial in this matter-- Bush may very well get to name another nominee, but Democrats control (or at least gain working control) over the Senate, then it won't be another Alito.