Already those on the left are out there with their talking points saying all sorts of terrible things about Judge Alito's record in cases. Here is the list from Think Progress, but there are others with the same list. Apparently, he would roll back civil rights and rights for the handicapped. He would return women to the days of the 19th century when they were legally the possession of their husbands. He would order strip searches for chldren. And so it goes. Even Rosa Parks is against him, apparently, according to Charles Schumer.
When we're talking about complicated rulings, it is very easy to take the result of a judicial opinion and mischaracterize it by just referring to the end result and not the reasoning why Alito reached those decisions. Check out this post by Julian Sanchez at Hit and Run for a case by case refutation of these talking points. Unsurprisingly, there is more to each story. What emerges is the picture of a very careful and restrained judge who is making decisions, not based on the desired outcome, but instead is trying to apply the law as carefully as possible. (link via Instapundit)
This is complicated stuff and it doesn't yield easily to sound-bite size refutations. I heard several liberals yesterday recite this list with speed and assurance on different venues. This is what the Republicans need to be able to counter with the same quick, knowledgeable air. And I don't think that they're ready yet. Yesterday, Ken Mehlman had a conference call with bloggers and, according to Bulldog Pundit, most of the questions from conservative bloggers concerned whether the GOP was ready to support him. (Here's a list of others on the call and what they wrote about it.)
The GOP needs to get counter talking points out there so that they refute all these mischaracterizations. It's not enough just to recite Alito's biography and qualifications. The Democrats will concede all that and then say he's a far-right ideologue and go into their litany of what will happen in Sam Alito's America. That is even the title of their talking points. Do you need any more hint of their ambition to Bork this man?
The difference is that we are forewarned this time. We can see their talking points on the web. We know what they are going to try to do. We needed to be ready yesterday to refute those points, but the GOP spokesmen I saw yesterday weren't ready. They just kept talking about what a fine, intelligent man Alito is. That is not enough. Call the liberal spokesperson a liar if you have to but make it clear to the audience that Alito doesn't hate immigrants or wives or the handicapped or whatever talking point that will be spouted.
It now seems that we won't have hearings until January. The Senate will go into recess after Thanksgiving and they're not going to give up all their holiday and travel plans to come back for hearings. So there will be two months of this demagoguery. That is what we lost from the Miers nomination. The ads are going to be up on the airwaves and the spokespeople out there on the talkshows and whispering into the ears of journalists. This is the battle for which both sides have been gearing up for the past five years. The senators, other than the Schumers and Kennedys, might not be as revved up as the interest groups but it's too late: they will let slip the dogs of war. And I worry that our guys are just not armed sufficiently. I am confident that Alito will ultimately be confirmed, but I'd like to win the battle of ideas, too. And I don't want to have to wait for the hearings for that to happen, because the first impression will be what most people take away from this discussion.