Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Now that the Democrats have lost on Alito, the long knives are out. The New York Times has a story looking at what the Democrats did wrong in their tactics to try to stop the Alito nomination.
As the last obstacles to confirmation faded away Monday, Democratic aides said their party had initially expected Judge Alito to live up to his reputation as "Scalito," suggesting a conservative firebrand in the mold of Justice Antonin Scalia. Failing to adjust to his meekness, Democratic aides admit they searched too hard for scandal in Judge Alito's past.

The White House, meanwhile, sought to take advantage of Judge Alito's low-key, almost shy demeanor to build sympathy for him. They say they succeeded beyond all expectations when Judge Alito's wife, Martha-Ann, walked out in tears from his confirmation hearings.

"Any time they are yelling, preaching, lecturing, and you are cool and calm and breathing deep, you are winning," the administration official said the White House team told Judge Alito. "What that means on television sets where the American people are watching this is, you look good and they look bad. It was the central operating premise."

Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, agreed. "It was a classic rope-a-dope," Mr. Manley said, referring to the boxing tactic of leaning against the ropes to let an opponent exhaust himself punching.
The blame seems to be centering on Senator Kennedy's aides, particularly a man with the Dickensian name of James Flug.
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."

Mr. Flug also led the investigation into the background of Judge Alito's membership in Concerned Alumni of Princeton, a conservative group that had opposed the university's affirmative action policies and its admission of women. For weeks, he even tried to persuade the staff of Republican senators that the matter could be a serious concern, said Republican Judiciary Committee aides, until in December the Republicans sent a researcher to review the group's records and found no mention of Judge Alito.

Still, Mr. Kennedy made Concerned Alumni a major focus of his questioning at the confirmation hearings, even threatening to interrupt the proceedings unless the committee issued a subpoena for another set of the group's records. But the move backfired when the records turned out to be readily available and also did not include any reference to Judge Alito.
And I guess Kennedy is not sharp enough to know when his friend and aide has gone over the top in his attacks. But Kennedy wouldn't recognize over-the-top attacks if they bit him on his derrière.