WASHINGTON, Oct. 31
At 8:01:30 AM this morning President Bush took to the Cross Hall in the White House to nominate Judge Samuel Alito of the Third Circuit US Court of Appeals to be the next Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.
President Bush called for an up or down vote to be held on Alito's nomination before the end of this calendar year.
So: Alito considered in the shortest of hand:
Republicans/conservatives: delighted; all is forgiven; they (HEART) Alito; by sundown, nearly every conservative group, talk show host, pundit, blogger, and law professor will be fully/madly/intensely on board; barring something totally odd, he will eventually draw at least 52 Republican votes; the White House and RNC have their research ducks in a row (no rushing back to Dallas to fetch papers); great talking points galore on credentials; the kids -- in their own way -- are as cute as the Roberts kids; when the Administration said they "got" why Miers went down, they were telling the truth; if (and we emphasize "if") the White House needs tens of millions of dollars spent by "private" groups to get him confirmed, the money will be there.
Democrats/liberals: will be divided, with some saying "wait and see" for real, some saying "wait and see" as a strategy, some saying "we have reservations," some saying "oppose," and some saying "filibuster"; by the time the liberal groups are done with their research (yes, amazingly, even regarding someone who should be totally oppo vetted, we predict they have work to do on Alito), the right will be completely united and geared up; only a minority of the minority "learned" the lesson from the Roberts experience that if you don't oppose immediately, you get overwhelmed; if there is an up-or-down vote, we predict at least one "Nelson" will vote "yes" and maybe more.
Timing/process: A Senate aide tells ABC News that, although the White House would like to have the confirmation "finish[ed] by Christmas. . . . , We've told them 'we'll try but don't get your hopes up'"; which means this fight takes place right around State of the Union, which means the White House will have to juggle SOTU message of unity with what MIGHT be a fight; Democrats won't make a filibuster decision for a long time (a "herding cats" matter); if they decide to filibuster and can get the votes to do it, Republicans will take the steps necessary to end the filibuster; the mountains of polling data both sides have had for months notwithstanding, no one can know for sure who would win the "up-or-down" versus "Senate tradition" fight, but based on his sweet/vintage performance this morning, Alito would seem to be a good actor for the Republicans to put at the center of the drama.
Pending/TBD: FLOTUS and O'Connor SCOTUS reax; will any pro-choice Republican Senators have issues with this pick; the identities of Alito's best Democratic friends; whether the Vice President was informed by Secretary Card of the pick, or actually was involved in the selection; ditto Karl C. Rove; and why President Bush didn't choose one of the female short-listers (apparently, America is not a populace enough nation to find a second qualified woman to be on the Court).
Planned Parenthood opposes the nomination and Family Research Council is supportive, only helping the news media narrative of a battle royale, which we still believe will be relentlessly overstated by the media. Our guess: the country ain't in the mood for a big fight, and the left is too disorganized and divided to mount one effectively.
Sam Brownback is already heaping praise, as is Bill Kristol, so this nomination is already off to a better start than Miers.
Majority Leader Sen. Frist (R-TN) will greet Judge Alito at 9:30 am ET at the Senate. In a heart-felt and Deaveresque move, the pair will then view the casket of Rosa Parks in the Rotunda.
Sens. Frist and McConnell will have a 10:15 am ET photo opportunity with the nominee.
Senators Schumer (11 am ET) and Specter (11:45 am ET) are expected in the Senate Radio-TV Gallery to tell the world what they think.
The Supreme Court meets for oral arguments today and is also expected to issue orders this morning at 10:00 am ET.
The Supreme Court Justices will gather today for their formal and informal group photographs.
As part of the unofficial "Italian-American" Day at the White House, President Bush meets with Prime Minster Silvio Berlusconi of Italy in the Oval Office at 11:05 am ET. The leaders will address the White House pool at the bottom of the meeting. Whether or not Prime Minister Berlusconi asserts any ethnic pride in Judge Alito's nomination is not known at this writing.
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan is currently scheduled to hold a gaggle with reporters at 9:30 am ET and an on camera briefing at 2:30 pm ET.
Majority Leader Sen. Bill Frist: "With this selection, the president has chosen a proven nominee that meets the highest standards of excellence."
Democratic Leader Sen. Harry Reid issued a written statement this morning saying in part, "The nomination of Judge Alito requires an especially long hard look by the Senate because of what happened last week to Harriet Miers. Conservative activists forced Miers to withdraw from consideration for this same Supreme Court seat because she was not radical enough for them. Now the Senate needs to find out if the man replacing Miers is too radical for the American people."
Reid's statement went on to criticize the President for failing to appoint someone other than a white man and failing to consult with Senate Democrats this time around.
Reid's statement concludes, thusly: "I look forward to meeting Judge Alito and learning why those who want to pack the Court with judicial activists are so much more enthusiastic about him than they were about Harriet Miers."
Republican Judiciary Committee member Cornyn: "The President has chosen a well qualified nominee for our nation's highest court. It is clear that Judge Alito is a man of outstanding character, who is deeply committed to public service, and has a distinguished history of professional achievement and leadership."
Democratic Judiciary Committee member Schumer: "This controversial nominee, who would make the Court less diverse and far more conservative, will get very careful scrutiny from the Senate and from the American people."
Liberal interest group People for the American Way: "We had hoped President Bush would nominate someone with a commitment to protecting Americans' rights and freedoms," said PFAW leader Ralph Neas. "That's what the American people want, and it's what they deserve. Unfortunately, with Judge Alito, that's not what President Bush has given us. He has chosen to divide Americans with a nominee guaranteed to cause a bitter fight."
The Family Research Council's unpsycho Tony Perkins tells ABC's Terry Moran:
"We're ready to rumble."
"The Supreme Court has controlled the culture for 40 years. To think that we're going to reverse the liberal activist Court and culture without a fight is wrong. There's going to be a fight. There needs to be a fight. And we're ready."
"We are very encouraged by this pick. This is in line with what the President promised during his campaign."
"Judge Alito deserves a full and fair hearing before the Senate. And we intend to play our role in making sure he gets one."
ABC's Jake Tapper got this reaction from one conservative interest group: "Outstanding man! We're delighted!" says Jan LaRue of Concerned Women for America, one of the major conservative groups to oppose Harriet Miers.
"For 15 years we've watched this man, he is a strict constitutionalist," added LaRue.
He won't legislate from the bench, LaRue says, adding they have no concerns about Alito at all.
The Republican National Committee has distributed some very positive quotes about Alito from Sens. Kennedy, Lautenberg, and Bradley (Democrats all) from his earlier nominations and confirmations as US Attorney and for his current seat on the Third Circuit US Court of Appeals.
An aide to Sen. Kennedy tells The Note: "He had no paper record then, but he does now; and that paper record raises very serious questions about whether Judge Alito would construe the Constitution to protect the fundamental rights of all Americans."
Other items in our political daybook today:
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid attends a Monitor luncheon at the St. Regis Hotel from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm ET.
The National Press Club sponsors a luncheon with former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who is expected to discuss the CIA leak case at 1:00 pm ET in Washington, DC.
Secretary of State Rice is expected at the United Nations for the vote on the Syria resolution.
A memorial service for civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks will take place at 1:00 pm ET in Washington, DC.
Former vice presidential candidates John Edwards and Jack Kemp will join forces for a discussion on work and poverty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at 1:00 pm ET.
Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA) holds a 10:00 am ET press conference at the State Capitol in Des Moines, IA.
Earlier this morning, Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard (R-MI) declared his intention to challenge U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow in next year's election.
At 6:30 pm ET, the Republican Parties of Franklin, Licking, Fairfield, Union, Pickaway, Madison, and Delaware counties will host the entire 2006 slate of Republican candidates for statewide office in Columbus, OH.
See below for our look at the week ahead in politics.
Samuel Alito for Associate Justice:
Bloomberg's Greg Stohr picks up Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid telling CNN's "Late Edition" that an Alito nomination "would create a lot of problems.'" LINK
The Senate unanimously confirmed Samuel Alito to the Third Circuit on April 27, 1990. There was no battle for his documents from his days in the Solicitor General's at the time of his confirmation.
Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog writes, "Alito has a lengthy resume, filled with strong indications that he is qualified professionally. Those who know him personally, and those who have served with him and appeared before the Third Circuit, have said he is an even-tempered individual. Some expect him to attempt to become a consensus-builder on the Supreme Court, and to be less aggressive in advancing his conservative views than Justice Antonin Scalia is known to be." LINK
From GWU Associate Professor of Law Orin Kerr: "It will take a few weeks for Senate Democrats to get comfortable with Alito, I think; given the "Scalito" nickname often used to describe him, many initially will fear that Bush has nominated some kind of Scalia clone. In time, though, I think we'll see that Alito is more like John Roberts than Antonin Scalia. Like Roberts, Alito is an institutionalist who spent his career working in government at a very high level (including at the Solicitor General's Office). Like Roberts, Alito is a very likable person. In light of his similarites to Roberts, I expect that Alito will be confirmed without a filibuster." LINK
While appearing on "Fox and Friends," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist acknowledged publicly--at least for a moment--that Harriet Miers did not simply withdraw because of an irreconcilable conflict over the separation of powers.
"The American people had a reaction that was a little unexpected," Frist said, "and she withdrew."
He then got back on message and said in response to a subsequent question: "I think Harriet Miers withdrew based on certain principles and she made those clear at the time."
As for Alito, Frist said: "This fellow is impeccable."
ABC's Jake Tapper reports, "In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Alito was the sole dissenter on the Third Circuit, which struck down a Pennsylvania law that required women seeking abortions to consult their husbands. He argued that many of the potential reasons for an abortion, such as 'economic constraints, future plans, or the husbands' previously expressed opposition . . . may be obviated by discussion prior to abortion.' The case went on to the Supreme Court, which upheld the lower court's decision...Chief Justice Rehnquist's dissent from that decision striking down the spousal notification provision of the law quoted Judge Alito's dissent and expressed support for Judge Alito's reasoning."
"In 1997, Alito authored the majority opinion upholding a city's right to stage a holiday display that included a Nativity scene and a menorah because the city also included secular symbols and a banner emphasizing the importance of diversity."
In March 2003, the Honorable Sam Alito, judge for the United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit, was the distinguished jurist-in-residence at the Pepperdine School of Law. He lectured in several classes on topics including "Domestic Response to Terrorism and the Constitution" and "How Judges Make Decisions and What Influences Them." LINK
The conservative Patterico's Pontifications blog takes a look at Alito's ruling against Sen. Specter when Specter was the lead plaintiff in a 1992/1993 BRAC case fighting to keep Philadelphia Naval Shipyard from closing. LINK
Be sure to Note the July 2005 Philadelphia Inquirer coverage of a Specter press conference where the Chairman offered some praise for Alito. LINK
Roll Call's Paul Kane looks at SCOTUS timing and writes that the general consensus is that it would take "almost six weeks or more from the time Bush makes his nomination before the nominee could be fully vetted and appear before the Judiciary Committee for confirmation hearings. . . That scenario would push the committee proceedings into mid-December, leaving very little time for floor debate and a vote before Christmas if the hearings go smoothly."
Wilson White House status:
Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times asks the questions left unanswered by Fitzgerald's indictment and suggests congressional hearings may be the only forum through which the country can learn all the facts to make a political judgment of President Bush and his Administration in this case. LINK
Raise your hand if you think the Republicans in Congress would like to hold such hearings.
Per Newsweek: "'This is a White House in turmoil right now,' said a senior aide, one of many who declined to speak on the record at a time of peril and paranoia. As for Rove, the aide said, some insiders believed that he had 'behaved, if not criminally, then certainly unethically.'" LINK
On the personnel front, Time Magazine's Nancy Gibbs and Mike Allen report that White House Chief of Staff Andy Card could be named Treasury Secretary by the beginning of the year and that Josh Bolten, Marc Racicot and Clay Johnson are thought to be among the possible replacements. LINK
In this week's Time Magazine, Joe Klein has a "prominent Republican" telling him that the White House sent out talking points last week about how to attack Brent Scowcroft after "Bush the Elder's National Security Adviser went public with his opposition to the war in the New Yorker magazine. 'I was so disgusted that I deleted the damn e-mail before I read it,' the Republican said. 'But that's all this White House has now: the politics of personal destruction.'" LINK
Wilson White House: Libby:
Time Magazine's Michael Duffy has a source "close to the investigation" telling him that Fitzgerald and Libby's attorney Joseph Tate "discussed possible plea options before the indictment was issued last week. But the deal was scotched because the prosecutor insisted that Libby do some 'serious' jail time." LINK
The Wall Street Journal's Anne Marie Squeo reports that "it is likely" Libby will seek a "Washington Republican" to represent him. His current lawyer is an outside-the-Beltway Democrat.
The Washington Post's Lois Romano reports that Libby is looking to expand his legal team and that the cost of such representation might empty his family coffers. Romano has Mary Matalin saying of her former colleague: "'He has no sense of entitlement, no sense that he's been victimized. Just an attitude of 'circumstances have to be dealt with,'' said Mary Matalin, a friend and former White House colleague, who spoke to Libby over the weekend. 'He knows he has got a job to do, and he will get it done. . . . Whining is not in his lexicon.'" LINK
The Wall Street Journal's Jess Bravin reports that if Cheney has to testify in a possible trial of his former chief of staff, it will be due in part to a precedent set when Cheney himself was a White House aide and his boss, President Gerald Ford, was called as a witness in a 1975 trial.
In a well-placed Wall Street Journal op-ed, former Solicitor General Ted Olson vouches for Libby's honesty and bemoans the way in which Fitzgerald has gone after Libby for inconsistent testimony without charging him for any underlying criminal behavior.
Wilson White House: Rove:
Per Newsweek: "Interestingly, Rove may be an important witness for Libby. According to a source familiar with Rove's testimony, who declined to be identified disclosing grand-jury information, Libby told Rove that he had heard about Wilson from Tim Russert. This squares with what Libby himself told the grand jury and suggests that Libby's story was at least consistent -- not cooked up to mislead the Feds. Of course, Fitzgerald may just argue that Libby was lying to Rove, too." LINK
Rick Klein of the Boston Globe gives a round up of the Democrats' push on Rove to resign. LINK
The New York Times' Hulse focuses his look at the Sunday talk on Sen. Reid's call for a presidential and vice presidential apology in addition to a Rove resignation. LINK
Treasury Secretary John Snow, who receives the report of a tax-reform panel on Tuesday, tells the Wall Street Journal's Roert Guy Matthews that his department is ready to turn the panel's recommendations into a concrete proposal at the start of next year -- if the President gives the word.
In a front-pager for the Wall Street Journal, Seib and King write that Bush's troubles at home may impair his power abroad.
"In the USA TODAY poll taken this weekend, Bush's approval rating is 41%. That is lower than Reagan's standing at any time during the Iran-contra controversy or Clinton's rating during the Monica Lewinsky scandal." LINK
Lee Bandy of The State writes that the solid supports South Carolinians have for President Bush is beginning to crack. LINK
Per the AP's Mike Glover, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney dismissed recent GOP setbacks as "bug bites" while campaigning in Iowa on Saturday. LINK
"'I look at what's happening in Washington and I'm sure in the realm of wish fulfillment and dreams, the Democrats are hoping that a couple of irritating bug bites that we've gotten over the past few days in Washington are going to cause us to turn around and run in the other direction,' Romney said."
"Questioned by reporters after his speech to about 50 eastern Iowa Republican activists, Romney said his comparison of Republican setbacks to bug bites was simply a joke."
"'I'm teasing, it's a joking reference to all the troubles we've been having lately,' he said."
"He conceded that indictments which have been issued against key Republicans is serious."
"'The indictment of someone is a very serious setting,' he said. 'We as a party are going to continue to fight and go forward, despite a very serious consideration for an individual.'"
The New Hampshire Union Leader's Michael Cousineau reports that Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) handed the current Bush Administration an unabashed critique ("it's been on their watch that the conflict in Iraq has been terribly, terribly mismanaged" rolled trippingly off his tongue) during a Granite State appearance on Saturday, but the Senator has yet to decide whether he'll be running to fill presidential shoes. LINK
The AP's David Sharp writes that Sen. Hillary Clinton's New England weekend travels took her (Notably) not to New Hampshire. She instead (Mainely) spent time offering fund-raising assistance to Gov. John Baldacci, in addition to attending a benefit -- held in Boston, mind you -- for Granite State Gov. John Lynch. LINK
In a story being circulated by the DCCC this morning, John Bresnahan reports for Roll Call that GOP headaches are set to multiply this week as Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) heads to court on Tuesday and as Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) holds his fourth and final Abramoff hearing on Wednesday.
In Sunday's Los Angeles Times, Ron Brownstein had Prof. Larry Sabato saying that if Kilgore can retake the Virginia governorship for the GOP with his death penalty attacks, it would prove "that red states" in 2006 "are going to be tougher nuts to crack for Democrats, even under good circumstances, than they currently think" because of a continuing perception that Democrats are out of step with the values of Red State voters. LINK
Of the first Ferrer/Bloomberg debate, Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times writes, "The spirited, often testy encounter was dominated by efforts by Mr. Ferrer, the Democratic nominee, to score direct hits against Mr. Bloomberg, a Republican, while standing side by side with the incumbent for the first time in a campaign in which the mayor enjoys a huge advantage in spending and in the polls." LINK
In his news analysis, Pat Healy of the New York Times called yesterday Ferrer's best day of his candidacy. LINK
David Seifman of the New York Post reports that Mayor Bloomberg simply waited out Ferrer's valiant attempts to sock-it-to-him during their first debate. LINK
The New York Daily News editorial board likes Mike for mayor (again). LINK
For the Washington Post's front page, Caryle Murphy looks at the ways in which Democrat Tim Kaine balances his Catholicism with his pledge to enforce Virginia's death penalty laws. LINK
The New York Post's editorial board -- tuning in to New Jersey's tax and corruption troubles -- endorses Doug Forrester as the right man for Garden State governor. LINK
The Schwarzenegger Era:
The Los Angeles Times ponders Maria Shriver's virtual absence from the special election campaign trail. LINK
The New York Post's Frederic Dicker has heard rumblings that Eliot Spitzer may try to cheer up Democrats -- should a sweeping Bloomberg victory fluster them -- with a gubernatorial campaign announcement in early November, and William Weld is ready to give the Attorney General a good, solid showdown. LINK
The week ahead:
At some point midweek, we expect Scooter Libby to make his first court appearance.
Former Sens. Connie Mack and John Breaux, Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the President's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform, accompanied by other members of the panel, will deliver the panel's recommendations to reform the U.S. tax code to Treasury Secretary John Snow tomorrow at 10:00 am ET in the Treasury Department Diplomatic Reception Room. A briefing by Sens. Mack and Breaux will follow.
Bush-Cheney '04 strategist Matthew Dowd addresses the University of Kansas Dole Institute of Politics in Lawrence, KS.
Retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes will be honored at a Maryland Democratic Party fundraiser in Baltimore, MD.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R-NYC) and Fernando Ferrer (D-NYC) face off in the second and final televised general election debate in New York City.
Also tomorrow, Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) hosts a fundraising reception for Mayor Bob Baines' reelection campaign in Manchester, NH.
On Wednesday, President and Mrs. Bush host a White House dinner for Prince Charles and Duchess of Cornwall Camilla Parker Bowles.
Also on Wednesday, Rudy Giuliani is scheduled to give a speech at the Management Institute of the University of Richmond in Richmond, VA.
On Thursday, President Bush departs to participate in the Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata, Argentina.
At 10:00 am ET on Thursday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) will deliver a keynote address at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC entitled, "Winning the War in Iraq."
On Friday, Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) hosts a Republican Governors Association meeting in Miami, FL.
Sens. McCain and Kyl (R-AZ) headline an Arizona Republican Party fundraiser on Friday evening in Scottsdale, AZ.
Former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) keynotes the Iowa Democratic Party's Jefferson Jackson Day dinner in Des Moines, IA on Saturday evening.
Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani headlines the Founders Day celebration in St. Louis, MO on Saturday.