You don't gotta believe.

You don't gotta believe.

You don't gotta believe.

Notes from the political sidelines.
Nov. 10 2005 3:49 PM

You Don't Gotta Believe

Rafael Palmeiro shows Scooter Libby how the pros beat the rap for perjury.

80_thehasbeen

Thursday, Nov. 10, 2005

Stickball: At first, Scooter Libby's defense against perjury charges was "I forgot." His new lawyers gave him a new defense: "The First Amendment made me do it." Now, Republican soulmate and would-be cellmate Rafael Palmeiro offers yet another route: "Take my wife, please."

Today, while the New York Times was chasing trivial government abuses like a lobbyist selling foreign leaders meetings with the President for $9 million, the House Government Reform Committee released a 44-page report  on its investigation into whether Palmeiro lied about taking steroids. At first, the Times' online headline was "Congressional Panel Clears Palmeiro." Perhaps someone looked at the report, because by midday, the headline read, "Congressional Panel Doesn't Charge Palmeiro."

Advertisement

The committee decided not to seek perjury charges against Palmeiro because it couldn't prove that the steroid he tested positive for on May 4 was in his system on March 17, when he told the committee he had "never used steroids, period." Ironically, the subject of that hearing was "Restoring Faith In America's Pastime." The committee report provides plenty of proof that along with steroids, the slogan "You Gotta Believe" should be banned from baseball.

Palmeiro claims that he tested positive because a syringe of B-12 he obtained from fellow Oriole Miguel Tejada must have been contaminated with steroids. Tejada provided other B-12 samples that were clean, and the Players Association lawyer who represented Palmeiro in his appeal admitted that all the evidence ran against his client's allegation. Another baseball official called Palmeiro's defense "far-fetched and odd."

Giddy-Up, Little Doggies: The report reveals just how much Maggie Thatcher's precious B-12 is now the shot heard 'round the world. Palmeiro said he started getting B-12 injections with the Texas Rangers. "When the doctor gave it to me I always had that little giddy-up," Palmeiro told the Washington Post yesterday.

Tejada said he has taken B-12 shots since he was 5 or 6 years old in the Dominican Republic. A teammate said he gave Tejada 40-45 B-12 injections in 2004, and 30-35 more this season.

Advertisement

When Jose Canseco alleged in his book Juiced that he and other home run kings like Palmeiro and Mark McGwire hung around the locker room injecting each other in the butt with steroids, most fans had two reactions: 1) Can't players with $20 million salaries pay someone else to do that for them?; and 2) Do they get a bonus for leading the league in being stupid?

But according to the House report, the hardest thing in baseball isn't getting the bat around on a 100 mph fastball – it's finding someone to stick a needle in your backside. With the Rangers, Palmeiro got the shots from the team physician. The Orioles team doctor won't give players B-12 shots – perhaps for the novel reason that injecting B-12 is against the law.

Spousal Consent: When no one else stepped up to the plate, Palmeiro asked his wife to do it. The report explains that Lynn Palmeiro knew how to inject her husband because their veterinarian had taught her to give allergy shots to their dogs. Oh, and one other reason: the Texas Rangers physician used to give Lynn Palmeiro her own illegal injections of B-12.

But let's not blame the victim: If you were married to a B-12 addict who's the national spokesman for Viagra, you might need a little giddy-up, too.

Advertisement

The committee declined to go after Palmeiro for throwing sand in the umpire's eyes, but Patrick Fitzgerald's influence is evident. The report refers to another Oriole, who took B-12 from Tejada but passed his steroids test, as "Player A." During his drug test, "Player A" was just like "Official A": "unsupervised." According to the report, major league players are given several hours to roam freely before turning in a urine sample.

In a report that might best be titled, "The Dog Took My Steroids," the most forthcoming person is a former Bush staffer (with the Rangers) named Dan Wheat, who was the team's head trainer. Wheat says he believes some players used steroids, but that the use of amphetamines – or "greenies" – was even more prevalent. Wheat once asked a player how many of the starting nine had taken greenies that day. The player said, "Eight."

Another unnamed player told the committee that he stays away from coffee in the clubhouse because it's often laced with amphetamines: "When a team is struggling or is going through a bad streak, they will spike the coffee."

Scooter Libby may have a hard time convincing a jury that his wife injected him with perjury serum. But with the White House on such a losing streak, it's only a matter of time before they start spiking the coffee. ... 3:47 P.M. (link)

1_123125_2120446_thehasbeen_postsplitter
Advertisement

Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2005

Party On, Wayne: Democrats aren't in the habit of enjoying Election Night. Most of us haven't really recovered from the heartbreak of 2000 and 2004; some still have nightmares from 1994 and 2002. So even though not all that much was at stake in yesterday's off-year races, our clinical history helps explain why last night felt like Democrats' best election in nearly a decade.

Only two races really mattered yesterday, and Democrats won both handily. Jon Corzine's victory shores up the party's claim on New Jersey, where Bush had made some of his biggest gains in 2004. Democrats have now managed to hold onto the governorship and both Senate seats, despite two resignations over scandal (McGreevey and Torricelli) and one angry ex-wife (Corzine).

Tim Kaine's victory in Virginia is even more important, because it shows that the party's most successful electoral and governing formula—ambitious centrism—is alive and well. Kaine and outgoing Gov. Mark Warner proved that voters aren't interested in ideological debates; they just want leaders who solve problems. The with-us-or-against-us Bush administration has tried hard to extinguish centrism in Washington, but it's thriving 90 miles down the road in Richmond.

Advertisement

Fifteen years ago, another centrist Democratic governor in Virginia, Doug Wilder, said that the real two-party distinction wasn't between D's and R's, but between those inside the Beltway who get mired in daily partisan firefights, and those outside Washington whose job depends on getting the job done.

One reason governors often do well in presidential races is that given the choice, Americans will choose the get-the-job-done-party over the pick-a-fight party every time. That's why Bill Clinton and Ross Perot got 61 percent of the vote in 1992, and why Clinton was the first Democrat to win re-election since FDR. That's also what Americans thought they were getting from George W. Bush, who promised to change the tone in Washington, only to become the most destructively partisan president in our lifetime.

Teachable Moment: What does 2005 mean for 2006 and 2008? That depends on what electoral lessons, if any, both parties learn from this one.

As bellwethers, off-year elections are notoriously unreliable. A year is a lifetime in politics, and New Jersey and Virginia aren't a very big sample size.

Advertisement

But as object lessons, off-year elections can be quite important. Wilder's 1989 victory helped shift the center of gravity in a party that had been battered by three electoral landslides in the '80s. All but one of the Democrats who sought the 1992 presidential nomination ran as New Democrats. If Democrats had learned more from Warner's 2001 victory, the 2004 primary debate might have played out differently.

Right now, the potential 2008 field looks more like 1992 than like 2004: Most of the senators and governors eyeing the race come from the get-the-job-done party, so last night is good news for them, too.

The implications for next year's House and Senate contests are less clear. At the moment, Bush is a cross to bear, even for candidates in red states. But if Democratic challengers want to copy Kaine's success in beating back Republican attacks on wedge issues, a positive, problem-solving agenda will be their best defense.

Meanwhile, the unfortunate defeat of Ohio's redistricting initiative is a long-term setback to Democratic hopes for the House. Competitive congressional districts force the debate toward the center, where Democrats have prospered and Republicans no longer roam.

Advertisement

But the real question is which party will take yesterday's lessons to heart. The GOP should see that moderate Republicans can win overwhelmingly in the bluest of blue places like New York City, while Republicans who fail to deliver the moderation they promised—like Arnold Schwarzenegger—get pounded outside the safe confines of red states.

Yet the spin from conservative circles draws just the opposite lesson: that Republicans lost Virginia and New Jersey because the base is demoralized and hasn't been pandered to enough. When Mark Warner's approval is at 80 percent and Bush's is under 40 percent, the party isn't letting down the base—it's letting down the whole country. John Dickerson and George Bush may not be willing to fire Karl Rove, but the American people are.

Democrats are already hearing plenty of bad advice, too. ABC's usually reliable The Note offers misinformation that could have come from Bob Shrum—or Karl Rove: "Democrats can now (again) plausibly argue that they can win by advocating bigger government programs for things such as health care and education." Virginia teaches a different lesson, which Democrats learned well in the 1990s: If we start by balancing the books, not by advocating bigger government, voters will trust us to solve problems like health care and education.

Most Democrats learned the wrong lesson from elections in 2000 (hate Bush), 2002 (hate Bush), and 2004 (hate Bush). If we learn the right lessons this time, we might get used to enjoying Election Night again. ... 12:21 P.M. (link)

1_123125_2120446_thehasbeen_postsplitter
Advertisement

Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2005

Ivies: Sam Alito's runaway thesis  surrendered to authorities in Princeton yesterday. According to the Daily Princetonian, Alito's adviser—Professor Emeritus Walter Murphy—has kept a copy of the thesis for the past 33 years and turned it over to the university on Monday. The senior thesis of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, '74, remains at large.

The full 134-page text of Alito's thesis will be released today, but the Prince excerpts the preface. In a prescient dig at careerist, middle-aged jurists who cloak their activism under the veil of judicial restraint, Alito refers to "the myth of the judge as automaton, a disinterested finder of law."

True to form, the preface hints at what Sam Alito '72 wanted to be when he grew up: "Writing a senior thesis about the Italian Constitutional Court is not as absurdly ambitious as writing one all about the United States Supreme Court." Obviously, Alito didn't want to reveal his secret desire to serve on the Supreme Court, so he channeled his absurd ambitions elsewhere.

Advertisement

Last year's White House spin: Foreign courts don't matter. Today's White House spin: Writing about an obscure foreign court is another sign of Alito's judicial modesty.

The day of his nomination, Judge Alito had to silence his own mother, who was showing reporters his childhood scrapbooks and describing her son as "very conservative" and anti-abortion. He may have a tougher time getting his thesis adviser to shut up.

Last week, Murphy praised Alito's nomination by expressing shock that such an intellectually challenged president could nominate such an intellectually gifted student. Yesterday, he told the Prince that "it's a gross insult" to lump Alito in with Clarence Thomas. "Their IQs are so radically different," Murphy said. "We're not talking about someone in Sam's intellectual league."

Murphy says he has remained close to Alito over the years and offered a detailed account of his student's judicial philosophy. "He is much more an Anti-federalist where state and national authority clash," Murphy told the Prince. "We, however, agree on other important issues, such as finding no constitutional barrier to bans on late term abortions and requiring spousal and parental notification of impending abortions." The professor also said that he and Alito agree that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided.

Advertisement

Move over, James Dobson. It was bad enough when nominees gave a wink and a nod to fundamentalist pro-lifers. Now a Supreme Court nominee is quietly signaling he's a solid vote against abortion to elitist, liberal university professors.

The Senate Judiciary Committee should summon Prof. Murphy to testify—if only because, in contrast to Alito, they'll have no idea what he might say. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney can try to hide behind thesis adviser-advisee privilege, but they're not in Sam's intellectual league. ... 10:42 A.M. (link)

Update: Last month, Harriet Miers' friend of 30 years, Nathan Hecht, told a conference call of conservative activists  that she would overturn Roe. After the story broke, Hecht insisted that he and Miers had never discussed it. Late this morning, the Daily Princetonian added a "correction" to today's story, retracting the assertion by Alito's friend of 30 years, Prof. Walter Murphy, that the judge believes Roe was wrongly decided. The Prince says "the error was a result of a misinterpretation of an earlier quote." Wrongly decided or wrongly quoted—you make the call.

Prof. Murphy now says, "Sam and I have never talked about Roe v. Wade, that I recall." Sam's new nickname: The Silencer. ... 1:33 P.M.

1_123125_2120446_thehasbeen_postsplitter
Advertisement

Saturday, Nov. 5, 2005

Fool Me Twice: Last weekend, Scooter Libby's lawyers leaked that he would rely on a "faulty-memory defense." The Washington Post said Libby, who was shopping for new lawyers, would try to persuade the jury that he and Karl Rove "are guilty of memory lapses, not lies." Sources said Libby was too smart to perjure himself, just too busy to keep his story straight.

By Thursday, when Libby entered his plea of not guilty, his new legal team hinted that he might hide behind the First Amendment instead. Perhaps his new lawyers are too smart to buy the faulty-memory defense, or just so busy they forgot.

One prominent defense lawyer explained that rather than play the fool, Libby and his new defense team went shopping for a new defense: "It would be difficult now to say that you didn't recall certain things when you've already testified that you did remember them."

Advertisement

Moreover, Libby's lawyers may remember that in past political scandals, faulty memories have proved to be a faulty defense. Nixon only dug his hole deeper by telling aides, "You say, 'I don't remember.' You can say, 'I can't recall.' "

It's a time-honored tradition: Elephants never forget; rogue elephants never remember.

During Iran-Contra, even goody-two-shoes Colin Powell repeated the mantra "I don't recall" 56 times. But for most, the defense doesn't work with the public or the jury. The Poindexters and McFarlanes would have been better off stiffing their legal teams and going straight to shopping for presidential pardons.

Been There: Scooter Libby and Karl Rove aren't the only ones tempted by the faulty-memory defense. The American people are ready to invoke it as well. This year, they woke up and realized they're stuck with another failed Bush presidency. The son is every bit as unpopular and ineffective now as his father was in his day. Americans should have known better in 2000, but they forgot.

Advertisement

This Bush administration has been one memory lapse after another. The big-government conservative stew of supply-side tax cuts and spending growth added trillions to the debt in the 1980s and is doing exactly the same this time around. Like his father, this president has learned that the consistent failure to solve festering problems at home eventually makes it impossible to focus on problems around the world.

Scooter Libby is on trial because a Bush White House run by veterans of the Nixon-Ford administration seems to have forgotten the same three-decade-old lesson that Nixon and his White House forgot from the Alger Hiss trial three decades before that. "Hiss would be free today if he hadn't lied," Nixon told his aides. "If you are going to lie, you go to jail for the lie rather than the crime."

In a speech this week to the Heritage Foundation, Tom DeLay used the faulty-memory defense to explain runaway Republican spending. DeLay made this Congress sound like the dream sequence in "Dallas." Apparently, conservatives knew better than to lard the budget with pork and earmarks but were so busy wooing lobbyists and saving Terri Schiavo they just forgot. DeLay went on to promise, "No more distractions; no more diversions." He forgot to mention "no more mug shots."

Under the headline, "Some in GOP Regretting Pork-Stuffed Highway Bill," today's Washington Post reports that conservative groups are mobilizing to repeal it because "Republicans who assembled the record spending package are suffering buyer's remorse."

Advertisement

Memory Aides: Meanwhile, down at the White House, the president who forgot his promises to restore integrity and fire leakers now has a plan to refresh other people's memories. Yesterday, he ordered all White House staff to attend "refresher lectures on general ethics rules, including the rules of governing the protection of classified information."

You'd think that the historic, daily spectacle of a colleague on trial for perjury would be enough of a refresher course for most White House staffers. The chronically forgetful might try tying a string around their finger and writing reminders like "Don't obstruct justice" on the back of their hand.

Democrats forget sometimes, too. A year ago Monday, Democrats lost an election to a lousy president by getting tangled in knots over Iraq. Now the Republican Party is swan-diving toward oblivion. Yet instead of swinging at the easy targets—incompetence, cronyism, perjury—Democrats keep returning to the one Bush has screwed up so badly, it's the hardest to fix: Iraq.

Even the press, which is supposed to be the keeper of our objective memory, has a tendency to lapse. For example, all week long the American press corps has treated Prince Charles and Camilla like royalty, forgetting that the very reason our forefathers gave us the First Amendment was to escape such humiliation.

Advertisement

Of course, faulty memories may be a natural defense mechanism of the body politic, in the same way the pain of childbirth fades over time. If we remembered how much it hurts every time leaders like DeLay say one thing and do another, we'd lose hope altogether.

But it is impossible to make progress in politics or any other endeavor unless we make an effort to remember where we're going and where we've been. "To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle," George Orwell wrote 60 years ago. "Otherwise, when some particularly absurd belief is exploded by events, one may simply forget that one ever held it." ... 10:01 A.M. (link)

1_123125_2120446_thehasbeen_postsplitter

Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2005

Advertisement

Ça  Ne Fait Rien, Ol' Man: As David Ignatius points out, desperate times have turned Bush from self-hating Yalie into born-again snob. The same man who campaigned against people who "think they're all of a sudden smarter than the average person because they happen to have an Ivy League degree" suddenly won't nominate anybody without one.

For years, Bush scorned the elitist old-boy network of his father's day in favor of a more egalitarian approach: nouveau cronyism. Bush 41 surrounded himself with out-of-touch sycophants from Yale, Princeton, and Harvard. The younger Bush had a higher dream: that in America, anyone can grow up to be a yes-man, not just the privileged few. Bush filled his administration with sycophants from Oklahoma State, Central State, and S. M. U.

With the new cronies in disgrace, the president has been forced back into the Ivy League fold. Roberts, Bernanke, Alito—soon Bush will start reminding us that he's always a winner in the Harvard-Yale game. At long last, our president-from-Andover embodies his Yale classmate Gary Trudeau's famed cartoon of a placekicker who slinks back to his eating club after losing the Princeton-Yale game, only to be welcomed with open arms because "we all prepped together."

So, like Chatterbox, I knew better than to look for the real Sam Alito in his dry judicial opinions and turned to his college newspapers instead. Under the headline "Law Alum May Serve on Court," the Yale Daily News went straight to the point: "President George W. Bush '68 nominated U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Samuel Alito LAW '75 to the nation's highest court Monday."

Advertisement

The paper made no effort to recount whether Alito ever saw Hillary Clinton LAW '73 in the library or double-dated with Clarence Thomas LAW '74. One classmate called Alito "a lawyer's lawyer," apparently confusing him with John Roberts.

The Yale Daily News also made this shocking discovery: "Several Yale Law School professors and experts said they did not dispute Alito's academic credentials." Translation: "We all prepped him together."

The Daily Princetonian, by contrast, interrupted its weeklong fall break to dish like crazy. (Full Disclosure: Decades before I began writing pointless, self-important drivel for Slate, I wrote pointless, self-important drivel for the Prince.) In college, Alito was "shy," "tee-totalling," "early-to-bed and early-to-rise," and as they say in every boyhood profile of a serial killer: "a very quiet guy."

Classmates only lapsed into incomprehensible Reunionesque spin when they tried to describe Alito's current philosophy. One said, "Sam Alito is just what George Bush is looking for: a big government conservative who will almost always side with the government against the individual, and the federal government against the state." Another called Alito "a judge's judge."

Advertisement

Query: If John Roberts is a "lawyer's lawyer" and Sam Alito is a "judge's judge," is either a judge's lawyer, or worse, a lawyer's judge?

To his credit, Alito doesn't set off most of the snob alarms that come with the territory at Princeton. He didn't join an eating club. He didn't oppose co-education—unlike Chief Justice Roberts and George W. Bush, who reportedly once said Yale "went downhill since they admitted women" and seems to feel the same way about the Supreme Court.

Missing Link: As Chatterbox, The Plank, Reliable Source, and the Prince have reported, the most interesting question about Alito's time at Princeton is what happened to his senior thesis, which is missing from the university library.

Nothing sparks a journalistic manhunt like a missing document. In fact, liberals have been hot on the trail of Alito's missing thesis for months, asking the obvious question: "Did the White House borrow it for the vetting process?"

Advertisement

Conspiracy theorists will be disappointed, at first, to learn that the thesis went missing in 1976, along with 18 others in the A-B stacks. Still, Alito's thesis is one of only 263 listed as missing in a collection of 55,000 theses. The odds are 200 to 1 against a thesis disappearing—and this may be the first Princeton thesis anyone has ever wanted to read. (My wife has spent two decades coming up with new reasons not to read mine.)

In light of such remarkable coincidence, conspiracy theorists must persevere. Who was running the country in 1976? Dick Cheney was White House Chief of Staff. George H. W. Bush was head of the CIA. And the man in charge of the Pentagon and telling Cheney how to do his old job was Donald Rumsfeld, Princeton Class of 1954.

Rumsfeld had the Special Forces at his command, and knew where the theses were buried—because he'd done one himself.

Bonus Conspiracy: Sen. Bill Frist '74 was two years behind Alito in the Woodrow Wilson School. Although every senior has to write a thesis in order to graduate from Princeton, Frist's thesis not only doesn't show up on the list as missing—it's not listed at all. The Princeton University Board of Trustees may have to go into surprise emergency secret session in the new Frist Campus Center to find out what really happened.

Advertisement

Of course, you don't have to be Oliver Stone's thesis adviser to want to read Sam Alito's thesis. Unless, like Scooter Libby, Alito has penned a racy sex novel we don't know about, his senior thesis is probably the longest work he has ever written without clerks. It could be the Rosetta Stone into his soul, not to mention his philosophy of grammar, style, and punctuation.

Does Alito measure up to the exacting standards of the Roberts Court? The New York Times hedged its bets yesterday by describing his paper trail as "methodical," "dry," and "lucid"—recalling George Bernard Shaw's famous line, "She had lost the art of conversation, but not, unfortunately, the power of speech."

The real reason Alito's thesis is worth finding is that it's a Portrait of the Jurist as a Young Man. Almost every senior thesis reveals one essential secret: what the author wants to be when he or she grows up.

Al Gore wrote his Harvard thesis on the impact of television on the presidency. That subject has defined his entire career, from the presidential debates that (along with the Supreme Court) helped cost him the job he deserved, to his new cable venture, Current TV. "We have to take our country back," Gore said last week. "And we're going to start by taking television back."

Advertisement

Brooke Shields '87 wrote her Princeton thesis on the initiation into adolescence in Pretty Baby, the film in which she played a pre-teen prostitute. Bill Bradley '65 wrote his thesis on Harry Truman's Senate race; only later did Bradley decide to run in New Jersey instead of Missouri. New York Times political correspondent Todd Purdum '82 wrote his thesis on "The Politics of Security." Mine was about Orwell's synthesis of economic liberalism and cultural conservatism.

Paper Tigre: So, even without the text, the subject of Alito's thesis is quite revealing: "The Italian Constitutional Court." From this, we can infer the young Princetonian's grand life ambition: to serve on Italy's Supreme Court.

Congratulations, Sam—you're halfway there! Italy's Supreme Court has a solid Catholic majority. If Alito is confirmed, so will ours. Italy's Supreme Court is made up of one woman and a bunch of white guys. After Alito takes O'Connor's place, ours will be, too.

According to the garbled English translation on the Italian Court's home page, "The main duty of the Constitutional Court is to ensure the respect of the rigidity of the Constitution." If Scalia and Scalito have their way, young conservatives will no longer have to dream of going abroad to realize their ambitions. We'll have a Supreme Court dedicated to respecting rigidity here at home. ... 12:27 P.M. (link)

1_123125_2120446_thehasbeen_postsplitter
Advertisement

Monday, Oct. 31, 2005

Weak Day: President Bush spent the last Monday in October the same way he spent the first Mondays in September and October, standing in the Oval Office alongside another candidate for the Supreme Court. If it's Monday, it's "Meet the Nominee."

With each retake, Bush looks more like a TV pitch man retaping a Corn Flakes commercial, trying to feign enthusiasm for the product as he downs his umpteenth mouthful.

Bush has managed to make Supreme Court nominations as routine a ritual as his weekly radio address—and like his radio address, the script is a revealing barometer of White House angst. Oval Office statements are the President's blog, an unedited opportunity to address his deepest fears. And as Bush understands now more than ever, if you want a friend in Washington, get a blog.

Advertisement

Today's entry touched on the inevitable anxieties of a man who has just gone through the worst week of his presidency. The subject was Judge Sam Alito Jr., but the subtext was Libby, Rove, and Miers:

What Bush said: "As a Justice Department official, federal prosecutor and judge on the United States Court of Appeals, Sam Alito has shown a mastery of the law, a deep commitment of justice, and he is a man of enormous character."

What he meant: Alito is optimistic that he will not be charged in the Special Prosecutor's investigation.

What Bush said: "Judge Alito showed great promise from the beginning in studies at Princeton and Yale Law School, as editor of the Yale Law Journal, as a clerk for a federal court of appeals judge."

Advertisement

What he meant: I have never met this man before in my life, and no strings were used to perform this trick.

What Bush said: "Judge Alito has served with distinction on that court for 15 years, and now has more prior judicial experience than any Supreme Court nominee in more than 70 years. … He has participated in thousands of appeals and authored hundreds of opinions."

What he meant: I never knew the judicial monastery had such fine, right-wing monks.

Left Out: Perhaps the most revealing aspect of today's statement was what Bush didn't say. On both previous occasions, when he nominated John Roberts and Harriet Miers, Bush stressed his trademark promise that they wouldn't legislate from the bench.

Advertisement

"He will strictly apply the Constitution in laws, not legislate from the bench," Bush said of Roberts. "A Justice must strictly apply the Constitution and laws of the United States, and not legislate from the bench," he said the next time. "Harriet Miers will strictly interpret our Constitution and laws. She will not legislate from the bench."

Today, in nominating Alito, the President offered a much more limited view of the limits of judicial activism: "He understands that judges are to interpret the laws, not to impose their preferences or priorities on the people." No mention of the Constitution or strict constructionism. No false judicial modesty that the new guy will sit quietly and behave himself on that bench.

What happened to Bush's old mantra? First, while we may not know Alito's shoe size, we know that shoe doesn't fit. Nobody who tried to overturn the Family and Medical Leave Act can claim that his philosophy is judge-modestly-and-carry-a-blank-slate.

The other reason Bush threw his judicial activism talking points out the window is that he doesn't need them anymore. On the contrary, he wants the right wing—and the left—to know that this nominee is the conservative judicial activist they've been waiting for all along. Bush's new message: Bring it on.

Forget all that mumbo-jumbo about umpires and judicial restraint, Bush seems to be saying. The fans don't come out to watch everybody sit on the bench—they want to see a brawl that clears it. ... 10:32 A.M. (link)