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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

I watched a little of the opening statements in the Alito hearings and not unexpectedly, when the gabfest switched from Republican to Democrat and Democrat to Republican, the impression it left was that the members of the opposing parties were there for entirely different purposes - the Republicans to more or less sing the judge’s praises and the Democrats to ask questions.

Of course the Republicans will ask questions, but it was pretty clear from their opening statements that they were ready to rubber stamp the President's choice. I haven't paid that much attention to the hearings of the Senate Judiciary Committee in past years, nor have I studied what went on before I was around, so I can’t say whether or not the situations were exactly mirrored at times when the Democrats had the majority and there was a Democrat in the White House - that they rubber stamped and the Republicans asked the probing questions.

In any case, it’s a sad state of affairs when members of the Senate approach their advise and consent duties from a purely partisan point of view as many of these eighteen senators seem to be doing. When it’s a question of a lifetime appointment to make decisions that will affect us, our children and our grandchildren, you’d think that partisan politics would be left at the committee hearing door and that the members would truly struggle to convince themselves that this man is worthy of confirmation - or not.

A couple of oddball thoughts came to me as I was watching the scene on CNN. Oddball thoughts often clutter up my generally cluttered mind. One was how many Americans those eighteen Senators on the committee represented - and this morning I did a quick check. These numbers may not be precise but in round figures, the ten Republicans on the committee represent a population of about 71,700,000 and the eight Democrats approximately 80,700,000. The Democratic population majority would be even larger except for the fact that there are two members from the same state - Wisconsin. Can’t count them twice - though there are some jurisdictions in the country where such arithmetic contortions are routine.

We are reminded again and again of the peculiar structure of our government where a majority of Senators can represent a distinct minority of the population and thus hold sway over who ascends to the Supreme Court to interpret the laws and establish legal precedents affecting the entire population - not just a minority living in less populated states.

The other oddball thought I had was how the Supreme Court, with the addition of Samuel Alito, might rule in a case under way in Italy. It may not get any further than a preliminary hearing scheduled for January 27, at which time a judge might decide that it’s a frivolous case and throw it out. But if it does go forward, I can see some avowed anti Catholic Church hater in this country bringing a similar suit which very likely - if it was allowed to go forward - would end up being appealed to the Supreme Court. One wonders then how each individual member would rule on the issue of whether or not Christ actually existed - which is what the plaintiff in the Italian lawsuit wants the court to determine. He says no way and he’s suing a Catholic priest and by extension the catholic church and challenging them to prove Christ’s existence.

No doubt if such a case ever reached the Supreme Court of the United States it would sorely tax the skill and wisdom of the nation’s top jurists. On the one hand would be the legal team claiming that Christ - and by implication - a "God" in human form - did exist and on the other the plaintiff’s attorneys who say - O.K. - prove it.

Such a dilemma. Here is a belief upon which whole structures of society have been built for centuries and the very existence of the God in human form upon which the belief is based is being challenged and the Court is being asked to rule.

What to do? There are no audio or videotapes of the alleged God in human form. There is no DNA available to test and even if there were, what could it reveal? We don’t have any "supreme being" DNA available for comparison.

There is no reliable historical documentation available - certainly none that could withstand vigorous legal challenge. We’re talking about a time long before the invention of the printing press. There were no news organizations with reporters able to confirm happenings through the testimony of multiple sources - and even if there were, how would they have presented their findings? The Court might rule that the Bible would be admissible as evidence based on the theory that millions of people believe it’s contents to be accurate. But how would it stand up against an immediate assault on it’s opening paragraphs - to say nothing of its assertions that historical figures lived hundreds of years and some sired children when they were a hundred or two hundred years old? The defendants might just as well offer copies of Alice in Wonderland in support of their assertion.

But of course this is the Supreme Court with a majority appointed by Ford (Stevens), Reagan (O’Connor, Scalia and Kennedy), Bush One (Souter and Thomas) and George W Bush - Roberts and if he’s confirmed - Alito, so we might assume that they would mirror the belief of the Presidents who appointed them, particularly the current President - and either rule for the defendant or, more likely, decline to take the case.

So we may have only the Italian effort to arrive at a non ecclesiastical court ruling on the question of whether or not an actual person named Jesus Christ ever existed. But since - unless and until it gets dismissed - such a case exists in a court somewhere - the current hearings on judge Alito provide an opportunity to get an insight into how our Supreme Court might rule if it was ever faced with a challenge to the preachings of the Catholic Church or any Christian denomination in this country.

Creeping theocracy is a phenomenon of twenty first century America - aspects of which could well become a part of cases that could come before the Supreme Court. So if I were sitting on that Senate Judiciary Committee examining the man who will likely tip the scales of the Court’s future decisions in favor of the mindset behind that creeping phenomenon - I would ask him what he thought of the merits of the Italian case - and if he wouldn’t answer, I’d filibuster the heck out of his nomination.

I don’t want anyone sitting on the highest court in the land who wouldn’t tell me whether or not he thought it would be appropriate for judges to rule on whether or not there is a God or if a Jesus or a Moses or any other Biblical character existed or are man made myths. If he can’t figure that one out to my satisfaction, I wouldn’t want him ruling on how often my village should pick up the garbage.

January 11, 12.30 p.m.

I just had to add some thoughts to the foregoing. Like so many other Congressional hearings, this one’s a charade. Unless Judge Alito suddenly begins to "Bork" himself he’s going to be confirmed. Of that there is no doubt. But since he has to go through the ritual of appearing before the Judiciary Committee and answering questions, he will say what he needs to say to assure his confirmation. If he thinks black people should be railroad porters and boot blacks - he won’t say it. And no, I’m not suggesting that he has any such thoughts. Nonetheless, there are times when it’s obvious that he’s lying and it’s painful to watch him do it.

I just want to record his response to two questions. One was from Russ Feingold asking about what went on during his rehearsals for his appearance before the committee. Among other things, Feingold asked if the question about the monitoring of domestic communication without court approval had been rehearsed - and Alito didn’t remember!! A question on everyone’s mind and one that was sure to come up at the hearings - and the judge didn’t remember whether or not it arose during his rehearsals.

The other was about his membership in CAP - Concerned Alumni of Princeton - a group that lobbied the university to accept fewer women and minorities. Alito couldn’t recall his membership even though he listed it "proudly" on a job application with the Reagan administration. He said he’d racked his brains about it but just couldn’t come up with any specific recollection of membership or those awful things that the group stood for.

The Republicans tried to help by asking him if he’d been a founding member or an officer of the organization and they seemed to be saying that because he wasn’t - his membership wasn’t such a bad thing. A youthful indiscretion maybe and thus not something that you’d specifically recall even with your brain racked and re-racked?

Well let’s just change the name for a minute from CAP to something else and see how it plays.

"Judge, on your application for a job with the Reagan administration in 1985, you say that you were proudly a member of Concerned Nazis of Princeton. What made you so proud of being a member of that horrible organization?"

"Senator, I’ve racked my brains over this and I just don’t recall being a member of the group, but I must have since I listed it on my job application."

"Weren’t you aware of what they stood for Judge? Doesn’t the name "Nazi" mean something to you?"

"Yes it does Senator, but as I say, I really don’t have any specific recollection of being a member."

And I guess they could sit there for the next month and he’s not going to remember anything about any past activity that could reflect badly on him and maybe threaten his ascendancy to the highest court in the land. And who can blame him? He knows he has a designated role in the charade and he’s playing it to the hilt.

I just think charades should be reserved as a parlor game to be played on rainy nights and not used as a rite of passage to the Supreme Court of the United States.