Monday October 31, 2005

A Full-blown Fight

Two political science professors at the University of Dayton predict an ugly Senate confirmation battle over the nomination of conservative judge Samuel Alito for a lifetime post on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Two political science professors at the University of Dayton predict an ugly Senate confirmation battle over the nomination of conservative judge Samuel Alito for a lifetime post on the U.S. Supreme Court.

"On a day when children will be knocking on doors for candy, Samuel Alito is a treat for Republicans and a trick for Democrats," observed Jason Pierce, assistant professor of political science who teaches courses on the U.S. Supreme Court and has researched judiciary systems in the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia.

Alito is a judge on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. His judicial philosophy is often compared to that of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

"Judge Alito is highly credentialed and experienced, which means that the Senate confirmation battle will turn on his judicial philosophy and approach to certain hot-button issues. Given some of his circuit court decisions on abortion rights and church-state relations, Alito placates Bush's social conservative base. Accomplishing that, however, means that we're in for a full-blown fight," Pierce said.

Chris Duncan, chair of the political science department, described Alito as "highly qualified, exceptionally well trained and archly conservative.

" Like a fighter on his heels, the Bush administration had two choices after the Harriet Miers debacle: cover up and hope for the bell to sound or lunge forward with everything you have and hope for the knock out. At first glance, Alito is their bid for the knock out," he said.

Pierce and Duncan predict heightened talk of a filibuster. "The real debate now occurs in
Democratic circles over whether to filibuster Alito," Pierce said. "Watch how quickly (indicted White House adviser) Scooter Libby moves to the back pages of tomorrow's paper."

Duncan believes a filibuster is a poor political decision. "It is a losing strategy that will not only backfire on the Democratic party in the short run, but it will cost Democrats the deal struck by the 'Gang of 14' just a few months ago," he said.

The Gang of 14 senators includes seven Republicans and seven Democrats who sidestepped a major filibuster fight in May by pledging to allow votes on Bush's judicial picks except under "extraordinary circumstances."

Contact Jason Pierce at (937) 229-2596 and Chris Duncan at (937) 229-3648. Chris Duncan is available all day Monday, Oct. 31, except 4 to 6 p.m. Jason Pierce is available after 2 p.m.