“A Man of Honor”

The NY Times chronicles the attempts of Kennedy’s staff to slime Judge Alito, and offers us this glimpse behind the scenes:

Their most indefatigable strategist was James Flug, a longtime friend of Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts who, at 67, was decades older than most of the other legal counsels on the Judiciary Committee staff. Mr. Flug first worked for Mr. Kennedy 35 years ago when they led a liberal minority of senators to block the Supreme Court nominations of Judges G. Harrold Carswell and Clement F. Haynsworth Jr., in both cases by mobilizing a coalition of civil rights groups and unearthing embarrassing aspects of the nominees’ records.

Among other things, several Democratic aides said, Mr. Flug drove the investigation into Judge Alito’s failure to recuse himself, as he had pledged to do during his court of appeals confirmation hearing, from cases involving his mutual fund company, Vanguard. But Mr. Flug met with polite skepticism from many of his colleagues.

“You are going to ask more questions about that oversight where Alito made no money?” a staff member for another Democratic senator said he asked Mr. Flug.

“It became clear to us early on,” the staff member added, “that the guy may be way too far right for our tastes, but we think the guy is a man of honor.”

That is basically how I see it. I don’t really care for many of his views, and he is too far to the right for my tastes on some issues, and I think his liberal opposition is accurate on his views of executive power and his deference to government authority, but I don’t think he is evil and I don’t think he should be filibustered. If I were a Senator, I would have wavered back and forth on whether to vote for him, but I would not have supported a filibuster.






32 replies
  1. 1
    Capriccio says:

    Attempt to “slime” Alito?

    Jesus, a US Senator on a responsible committee looks into a possible conflict of interest on an important nominee and you call it sliming?

    More such “sliming” might have saved us the hideous spectacle of Michael Brown at the head of FEMA during the nation’s biggest natural disaster.

    John McCain fathered a black daughter and cut funds that would have helped fight his sister’s battle against breast cancer.

    John Kerry shot himself to get a cheap medal and a free ride home.

    There’s your effing bar for sliming!

  2. 2
    Steve says:

    Two facts are clear about the whole Vanguard non-issue:

    1) Alito promised the Judiciary Committee at his prior hearing that he would recuse himself in any cases involving Vanguard, and he broke that promise. Maybe it was completely inadvertent, but he broke it. And the clumsy attempt to address it by saying his promise was only valid for his “initial term of service” wasn’t helpful.

    2) Because Vanguard is a mutual fund company where investors actually own the company itself, as opposed to simply holding shares in the fund, a federal judge is prohibited by rule from hearing a case involving Vanguard if he has any money whatsoever invested with them, just as a judge can’t hear a case involving IBM if he owns 1 share of their stock. Again, nothing says this couldn’t happen through pure inadvertence, but it was a violation of the rules.

    I see no motive for Alito to have acted intentionally with respect to any of this, but I can’t agree that it wasn’t even fair game to explore it. Whether it suggests a certain sloppiness in regards to following the rules is water under the bridge at this point, but I won’t concede it was a “smear.”

  3. 3
    feral1 says:

    Did Alito make a pledge to recuse himself from cases involving Vanguard? Yes.

    Did Alito then renege on this pledge? Yes.

    Is pointing this out, “sliming” Alito? No.

  4. 4
    John Cole says:

    I am not arguing with you al lagain about this beyond this comment- all the legal ethicists said he did nothing wrong, he did not violate a promise. This was clear, this was obvious, there was no ethical lapse or broken promise, yet Kennedy, and apparently, some of you, are still trying to slime him.

    You would think you idiots would get it through your damn heads- you just had a right-wing judge who makes Bork look like a Trotskyite pass the Senate, and you can;t figure out why.

    The reason is because you idiots rely on cheap smears like this bullshit Vanguard nonsense you are STILL PEDDLING rather than focussing on anything of substance. You guys are like Karl Rove- but dumber.

  5. 5
    Steve says:

    Judge Alito made this statement under oath:

    I do not believe that conflicts of interest relating to my financial interests are likely to arise. I would, however, disqualify myself from any cases involving the Vanguard companies, the brokerage firm of Smith Barney, or the First Federal Savings & Loan of Rochester, New York.

    I have not seen one single expert who said Alito did not break this promise, nor does it make any fucking sense that you would need an expert to tell you that when a guy says he will recuse himself from any cases involving Vanguard, and then he doesn’t, he has broken his promise. What kind of expert would you call to opine on that? An expert in reading the English language?

    As for the issue of whether the rules are broken, the experts were split. It’s not honest to say “all the legal ethicists agreed.”

  6. 6
    ppGaz says:

    I agree with everything you’ve said about Alito up to this point.

    On the filibuster point, though, I’d probably disagree.

    In legislative context, it’s all about vote counting, and particularly in the Senate, all about relationships between members. Like it or not, it’s the back room that does the work in the Senate, and the question of a filibuster has everything to do with the back room, and nothing to do with the talking heads on tv.

    A filibuster is basically a mechanism to prevent one side in the Senate from steamrolling over the other. That’s why it’s so important to keep it available. It’s a delicate mechanism.

    As a political move, and as a backroom move, I think a filibuster IS justified here, for strategic reasons. Absolutely nothing bad happens to Mr. and Mrs. America if the court has to wait another 3-4 months for a new justice. It isn’t like shutting down the government and letting the Social Security checks pile up on the floor.

    From my perspective, I’m in an opposition party. My job is to oppose, not to make nice. If Alito is not an opportunity to oppose, then what is?

  7. 7
    Steve says:

    The reason is because you idiots rely on cheap smears like this bullshit Vanguard nonsense you are STILL PEDDLING rather than focussing on anything of substance.

    If Kerry had won the election, everyone would have talked about how the Swift Boat smears backfired, how it was a mistake to focus so much attention on irrelevant stuff that happened 35 years ago. But he lost, so hey, it was a great strategy!

    Memo to John Cole: Have you ever paid any attention to Republican politics? I can’t remember a Republican campaign in history that was honestly waged on the issues. It’s all about whether Kerry thinks we need to be sensitive regarding al-Qaeda’s feelings, or whether Gore fibbed about inventing the Internet, or whether Dukakis lets black men out of jail to rape your wife.

    And now you want to tell me that the Democrats committed a mortal sin because they spent time on this side issue instead of attempting to grill Alito on issues of executive power (in a format which permits him to duck any uncomfortable question about legal issues, with no penalty)? You know what, me too. I would love an honest discussion about these legal issues and I would love it if the public pretended to care about them.

    But I sure as hell don’t want to sit here and listen to someone from the party of Rush Limbaugh and Karl Rove tell me how awful the Democrats are for not focusing on issues of substance. Tell me, if that’s the way to make our country better, why don’t you guys fucking try it sometime?

  8. 8
    Lines says:

    I have yet to see Alito really slimed. The Vanguard thing was a blip on the radar that both sides can use to fire up the uneducated base, but I see it as minor. What is more important is his work for Reagan and his solo-dissents against other judges that makes Alito a radical and an extremist to be stopped.

    Once again, I ask if you would want Alito hearing a case for your wife or daughter vs. a big business or the government. If not, then you shouldn’t approve of Alito on the SC or on any bench.

  9. 9
    Kirk Spencer says:

    John,

    Honorable? No, I don’t think so.

    Sure, Vanguard allegedly netted him no money (in the case itself – the value of his actual holdings increased over time that included the hearings). And ethicists argue about whether it was technically wrong – though you’re mistaken, all agree he did say he wouldn’t and then did, it’s just arguing about how bad this promise breaking was. But all that said, that’s just one situation.

    He also had that interesting dance about the CAP – important enough to put in his resume and discuss back then, but now suddenly unimportant and immaterial and can’t remember, except it was specifically because ROTC wasn’t allowed (except it WAS allowed), and… Yep, picayune, petty, pick your description. But that’s two.

    The thing is, when you go read the testimony and the supporting documents, you get lots and lots of these little things that aren’t in themselves “all that bad”. But a pattern of little dots is still a pattern.

    I know he lied and bamboozled. I do not think he’s an honorable man.

  10. 10
    ppGaz says:

    It’s not honest to say “all the legal ethicists agreed.”

    Yes, it is known as the “No controlling legal authority” defense.

    Bush, and Darrell, are using it daily in the NSA case.

    It’s a bullshit, and weak, posture. It’s a cop-out.

  11. 11
    neil says:

    Senators voted 58-42 in favor of President Bush’s choice to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor…

    So 17 Dems voted for Alito before they voted against him. Good for them! Play to win, guys!

  12. 12
    BIRDZILLA says:

    They attempted to slime ALITO but KENNEDY and KERRY have been slimed themselves too bad

  13. 13
    kl says:

    If Kerry had won the election, everyone would have talked about how the Swift Boat smears backfired, how it was a mistake to focus so much attention on irrelevant stuff that happened 35 years ago. But he lost, so hey, it was a great strategy!

    And if the apple had fallen up instead of hitting Newton on the head, we’d all be able to fly!

  14. 14
    Steve says:

    And if the apple had fallen up instead of hitting Newton on the head, we’d all be able to fly!

    It was a close election, by the way. You apparently didn’t notice that.

  15. 15
    Brian says:

    Whatever.

    Chalk up another victory for us on the Right, and another dismal failure of tactics and vision for the Left.

    That’s enough to make my day.

  16. 16
    slide says:

    I don’t really care for many of his views, and he is too far to the right for my tastes on some issues, and I think his liberal opposition is accurate on his views of executive power and his deference to government authority, but I don’t think he is evil and I don’t think he should be filibustered. If I were a Senator, I would have wavered back and forth on whether to vote for him, but I would not have supported a filibuster.

    Ok… so John Cole, a self described conservative Republican that voted twice for George Bush would not have filibustered Alito. so? Big fucking deal. Democratic Senators are elected by Democrats. They are supposed to represent OUR interests not you John Cole, conservative Republcan. Why should they not do whatever is in their power if they truly belive he will be harmful to our nation? Isn’t that their responsibility? Isn’t that why they are elected? I saulute the Dems that voted no on cloture, they followed what they conscisous told them to do, even though they knew they had a snow ball’s chance in hell of succeeding. Bravo.

  17. 17
    Vladi G says:

    Remind me never to rely on a promise from John Cole.

  18. 18
    kl says:

    It was a close election, by the way.

    Thanks for not saying “reelection.” BUSH LIED!!!

  19. 19
    jg says:

    I am not arguing with you al lagain about this beyond this comment- all the legal ethicists said he did nothing wrong, he did not violate a promise. This was clear, this was obvious, there was no ethical lapse or broken promise, yet Kennedy, and apparently, some of you, are still trying to slime him.

    You would think you idiots would get it through your damn heads- you just had a right-wing judge who makes Bork look like a Trotskyite pass the Senate, and you can;t figure out why.

    The reason is because you idiots rely on cheap smears like this bullshit Vanguard nonsense you are STILL PEDDLING rather than focussing on anything of substance. You guys are like Karl Rove- but dumber.

    You need an expert to tell you if he lied but we’re idiots for still having a problem with this. You say he should be grilled on the issues knowing full well he can duck all the questions about issues. Everyday, with every post you prove the republicans are in power not because they deserve it or have good ideas. Its because they’ve convinced you and the Stormyss that dems suck. Its that simple. You hate democrats. You are so easily swayed by any little thing the repubs say that paint the dem candidate as unworthy.

    You voted these idiots into power and are now mad at the minority party for using what little power they have. You villify them for not being effective when you’re part of why they aren’t effective. You spread the right wing bullshit that clogs our system. You contribute, then piss on the minority partys inability to get out from under. You bitch about the way this country’s headed yet you’re part of the right wing strategy. Stormy described it yeaterday, pick and choose items from the web or news and present it to people to show how bad the dems are. Not how great the repubs are of course.

  20. 20
    MI says:

    I think he’s probably a man of honor, a good guy, maybe he makes some mean pancakes and loves kittens as well, not sure what that has to do with him being on the SC though if he’s dangerous for the country? And if it’s basically his opinion that a president is more or less a king, then he is dangerous for our country and it’s not just hyperbole, imo.

  21. 21
    neil says:

    Chalk up another victory for us on the Right, and another dismal failure of tactics and vision for the Left.

    That’s enough to make my day.

    You would really have liked Germany in the ’40s, then…

  22. 22
    Brian says:

    That’s right, Neil….Bush is a Nazi, and so am I.

    Your comment is the last gasp of a loser.

  23. 23
    Steve says:

    You’re not a Nazi. You come across as more of a sports fan who doesn’t believe anything serious is really at stake.

  24. 24
    jg says:

    Bush is a Nazi, and so am I.

    Not nazis, just similar.

  25. 25
    Kimmitt says:

    John, please. Looking into something that didn’t pan out isn’t “sliming,” it’s oppo research.

  26. 26
    Bruce Moomaw says:

    The question, of course, is what the ultimate consequences of his “deference to executive authority” will be, given this crew and the fact that our “state of war” is permanent. By himself he probably won’t be able to swing a Court majority on this — but the next Bush apointee, presumably to replace Stevens, will. Which is why I opposed a filibuster this time around; Cheney has made it clear that when the Dems next try to filibuster a judicial nominee the GOP will immediately put an end to the filibuster (using a maneuver of questionable Constitutionality); and so if the Dems are going to lose their filibuster power anyway, they should definitely try to use it (or lose it) in a way which will allow them to get the maximum possible policy and/or electoral bang out of it. O’Connor’s replacement by Alito — while important in many ways — is less important than Stevens’ replacement by Bush’s next horror will be. And by the time of that next Bush appointment, the voters — who, according to Gallup, have somehow convinced themselves by 44-34 that Alito won’t vote to overturn Roe vs. Wade, but would have opposed his confirmation by 56-34 if they thought he WOULD do it — may have gotten an opportunity to see what Bush’s Court nominees are really like.

  27. 27
    Kazinski says:

    A large part of the reason Democrats are at a 45-55 disadvantage in the Senate is because of their filibustering of the President’s judicial nominees. Tom Daschle would still be the minority leader today if it were not for the judicial obstructionism. Max Cleland would still be the senator from Georgia if he hadn’t been so partison. And that is the main reason why the fillibuster failed so dramatically yesterday. It is obvious that Alito is a Reagan Conservative. It should be equally obvious that being a Reagan conservative, no matter how distasteful this is in some quarters, is firmly in the mainstream of the American political body.

    The Cannon of Judicial ethics discourage Judges from recusing themselves when there is no real ethical conflict. Accordingly Alito had a positive duty not to recuse himself in a case where he had no conflict. Especially when the case was a frivolous one by a serial litigator. The Vangurrd and CAP issues were only red herrings from the beginning, and only served to illustrate that the only real difference Democrats had with Alito were philosophical.

    Democrats and progressives should be overjoyed that the filibuster failed, so they can be assurred that when they win a few elections and have the Presidency, and a majority in the Senate that their nominee’s will be confirmed. While I was skeptical of the gang of fourteen at the time, I think they provided a valuble service diffusing some of the partisan tensions in the Senate that both parties will be grateful for in the future. And my partisan thirst for democratic blood will have to be slaked by the thin gruel of an Alito confirmation not by the more satisfying prospect of the fillibuster rammed down Kerry, Kennendy and Durbin’s throat via the “constitutional option”.

  28. 28
    Sojourner says:

    Get a grip, John. You conveniently overlook two facts:

    1. The evil Ted Kennedy is the same guy who implemented rules which ensured that the minority party (the Repubs) had the right to prevent candidates from moving through the process that the minority party really hated. So much for the evil partisan.

    2. Your party, in the form of Orrin Hatch, unilaterally decided not to follow these same rules from which they benefited when they were the minority. So the only thing left for the Dems to do is to try to fillibuster.

    Frankly, I’m beginning to think that you’re not the honest broker you claim to be. You conveniently ignore facts that explain why the Dems do what they do and how truly rotten your party is.

    Shame on you.

  29. 29
    Pooh says:

    Kazinski,

    Your post is confusing to me, most specifically:

    Democrats and progressives should be overjoyed that the filibuster failed, so they can be assurred that when they win a few elections and have the Presidency, and a majority in the Senate that their nominee’s will be confirmed.

    How does the continued existance of the filibuster help assure that nominees will be confirmed with control of the Presidency and Senate? The presence of a potential obstacle to confirmation…make confirmation more likely?

    You point on the Vanguard case is well taken. (My former ethics professor examined the case at length, and determined it was basically an ‘oops’, but nothing more).

    Other than that, you are just mistaken. Alito is most decidedly NOT in the judicial mainstream (the “unitary executive” theory is so radical that they had to find some junior member of the OLC to even sign on to defend it. The reason they call it “unitary executive” is that coming right out and saying “elected king” might scare people who didn’t sleep through the American Revolution portion of their U.S. History class.)

  30. 30
    Sojourner says:

    The Vangurrd and CAP issues were only red herrings from the beginning, and only served to illustrate that the only real difference Democrats had with Alito were philosophical.

    Didn’t Alito OWN Vanguard stock and wouldn’t the outcome of these cases have affected the value of that stock?

    Some red herring.

  31. 31
    Sojourner says:

    Chalk up another victory for us on the Right, and another dismal failure of tactics and vision for the Left.

    That is, after all, all that matters.

    Fuck the country, fuck the soldiers who lost their lives because of an unnecessary war, fuck the economy, and the list goes on and on.

    But that’s okay. Another win for the right.

    What a piece of shit you are.

  32. 32
    kl says:

    Tell us what you really think!

Comments are closed.