Thursday, January 19, 2006
Some weeks we're just too damned heartsick to blog, and Robert Parry explains why:
For a constitutional confrontation at least five years in the making, the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee looked as prepared to confront Samuel Alito as FEMA chief Michael Brown did in responding to Hurricane Katrina.(Link courtesy of our rumbustious colleague Chris Floyd, who also links to an excellent article on Iran by Simon Jenkins.)
As with the hurricane that zeroed in on New Orleans days before coming ashore, there should have been no surprise about Judge Alito. He was exactly what the Republican base had long wanted in a Supreme Court nominee: a hard-line judicial ideologue with a pleasant demeanor and a soft-spoken style.
Indeed, Alito has been such an unapologetic supporter of the right’s beloved Imperial Presidency that Alito’s one noteworthy assurance—that George W. Bush was not “above the law”—was essentially meaningless because in Alito’s view, Bush is the law.
Yet the Democrats were incapable of making an issue out of Alito’s embrace of the “unitary executive,” a concept so radical that it effectively eliminates the checks and balances that the founding fathers devised to protect against an out-of-control president . . . .
Does the president have the right to override the McCain amendment and order the torture of detainees? What point is there in Congress passing laws if Bush, as the “unitary executive,” can simply declare them meaningless? What would Alito do if Bush announced that he would begin ignoring Supreme Court rulings?
Since the “unitary” theory holds that independent regulatory agencies must cease to exist, should the president have total control over a revamped Securities and Exchange Commission? If one of his contributors is caught up in an accounting scandal, should the president have the power to order the SEC to look the other way?
If a media outlet criticizes the president, should he have the power to order the Federal Communications Commission to cancel the station's broadcast license? Would it be okay for Bush to give the license to a political ally or a campaign contributor?
Since you, Judge Alito, have long promoted the theory of the “unitary executive,” where are the boundaries of the president’s powers? For the duration of the war on terror, are there any meaningful limits on the president’s right to do whatever he deems necessary? Judge Alito, how do you differentiate between a system run by a “unitary executive” and a dictatorship?
Clearly, Alito would not have answered these questions. He would have fallen back on his ritual response of declining to comment about issues that might eventually come before the Supreme Court.
But many Americans would have been shocked by Alito’s refusal to stand decisively on the side of a traditional democratic Republic and against an autocratic regime. It also might have dawned on millions of Americans what’s at stake in this debate.