Alito & Armageddon

Despite threatening disarray on nearly all fronts, President George W. Bush moved quickly and with characteristic political focus to nominate Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. to replace Harriet Miers as his choice for the seat on the Supreme Court that will eventually be vacated by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

What remains unclear is how badly damaged Bush has been by the indictment of the vice president’s chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, in the CIA leak case as well as the forced withdrawal of Miers’s Supreme Court bid. Both were blows to Bush’s once invincible hold on the nation’s political agenda, an authority now undermined by his foundering domestic and foreign policies. Most surprising was the fact that Miers’s problematic nomination was derailed by a rebellion among the president’s most articulate and ideological conservative supporters, who demanded he nominate a candidate with strict, and well-known, constructionist or “originalist” views on constitutional interpretation. If the celebratory reaction among conservatives is any indication, the president has done precisely that in putting forward the “reliable” Judge Alito.

Like Chief Justice John Roberts, Alito’s credentials and personal integrity are hard to fault. Given the delicate balance among the justices on the most neuralgic issues likely to come before the Court, the Alito nomination has predictably given liberal groups, especially...

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