The Corner

Alito Politics

This is a winning political move. Alito is at least as qualified as Roberts, and his Casey opinion will not sustain a convincing filibuster. The Democrats seem trapped here. Reid has warned the president not to nominate Alito. And despite the narrow and non-substantive character of Alito’s dissent in Casey, the Dems will be forced by their groups to make abortion the issue. So if there is no filibuster, this is going to come off as a huge victory for the president.

On the other hand, a failed filibuster against this qualified a nominee will be an even bigger victory. A filibuster will inundate us with repetitive analyses of the Casey decision. But there is nothing in that decision that will carry a majority of the public against Alito. Conservatives will be infuriated by the attempted “borking,” the Democrats will look obstructionist, and the filibuster will fail. If anything, that would be even better politically for the president and the Republicans.

The third, and least likely possibility, is a successful Democratic filibuster. That could only be the result of a successful borking, with major media malfeasance, and would make conservatives even madder. The result would be a gigantic election showdown with conservatives even more activated than liberals.

So every political outcome is positive. The downside is the possibility that a filibuster will hold up the larger legislative agenda. But I don’t think even moderate Republicans are politically endangered by this. They will break a filibuster and will not be punished. Moderate Democrats will be in more danger if they do filibuster. Again, I think this traps the Democrats between their own groups and the broader public. Big win for the president.

Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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