The Note: As Goes Maine



If the pro-choice Republican Senators from Maine (who both happen to be women) decide they want to make it their personal crusade to stop Judge Alito from becoming Justice Alito, then the media's insistence that the President's latest Supreme Court nomination will be a "war," a "clash," "a momentous judicial battle," a "rumble," a "brawl," and "a bruising Senate battle" just might come true.

In all likelihood, Senators Snowe and Collins won't tip their hands for awhile. In the meantime -- despite the long odds that they will take on the White House, and despite the long odds (we think) that Democrats will try to filibuster this pick -- the media is sure to spend the next few months counter-factually ratcheting up the impression that the outcome of the nomination hangs in the balance.

Why is this?

Well, some segments of the press like the "Bush in trouble" storyline and don't want to give it up anytime soon.

Some segments of the press pretty much always prefer to have (Republican) presidential nominees be derailed (although the blood-thirstiness on that score seems lower than usual for reasons we can't quite explain today -- beyond saying: this guy seems nice!!).

Some segments of the press can't really identify ideologically with Judge Alito's rulings on abortion, machine guns, and religion in public life.

Some segments of the press just don't understand Senate rules.

And some segments of the press just can't bear to demystify the process for their editors by acknowledging that unless Snowe and Collins commit apostasy, it is only a matter of time before Alito joins the High Court.

Twenty-four hours into the Alito nomination, the right is unified; the Gang of 500 is officially blown away by Alito's resume and love of baseball; the papers are semi-filled with various John-Roberts-style quotes from liberal Democratic lawyers who have known Alito through the years and say they don't think of him as ideological; the left hasn't come up with an overarching strategy to drive down Alito's poll numbers; and, most important, Senator Specter has sent various signals that he doesn't think Alito will vote to overturn Roe (or at least it isn't a sure enough thing to vote against him).

And/but twenty-four hours into the Alito nomination, the White House likely has to resign itself to the confirmation process spilling into 2006, with all the resulting implications; the First Lady has not weighed in publicly; and the investigative apparatus is just now gearing up, with plenty of time to look at Alito's work at the Justice Department and the US Attorney's office (and/but with no indication that there is trouble lurking there).

So, today marks the moment at which the two stories that have so preoccupied The Note for weeks move from "boil" to "simmer." We will keep covering the Fitzgerald investigation and the SCOTUS twists and turns, but with the occasional banana breaks for Googling monkeys.

Even without Fred Thompson at his side, Alito is (we predict) likely to ace today's Capitol Hill photo ops, which begin at 10:00 am ET with Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH). Sens. Johnson, Hatch, Kyl, and Graham will each meet with the nominee later this day.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins and others will hold an 11:00 am ET news conference on the Alito nomination. The FRC will also preview its television ads which are set to run in selected markets across the nation.

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