Our newest member of the U.S. Supreme Court, Associate Justice Samuel Alito, can finally exhale. Much to the chagrin of many Democrats and their cronies, Judge Samuel Alito was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on January 31 by a 58 to 42 vote to retiring Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. While his hearings were not nearly as exciting as those of some of his esteemed colleagues (take, for instance, those of Associate Justice Clarence Thomas), they were certainly more contentious than the hearings of his new boss, Chief Justice John Roberts.
In the wake of Judge Alito's hearings and confirmation, there are lessons to be learned on both sides of the political aisle. Whether they will remains to be seen as attention will quickly turn back in the Senate Judiciary Committee to President Bush's remaining nominees for federal appointments.
Before Justice Alito was finally confirmed, Robert Bluey, editor of Human Events Online, joined CFIF Corporate Counsel & Senior Vice President Renee Giachino to discuss the Alito hearings from his unique perspective from inside the bloggers room. Mr. Bluey's perspective on the hearings still has relevance. What follows are excerpts from the radio interview that aired on "Your Turn - Meeting Nonsense with Common Sense" which airs on WEBY 1330 AM, Northwest Florida's Talk Radio.
GIACHINO: My next guest, Mr. Robert Bluey, serves as editor of Human Events Online, the Internet version of the nation's oldest national conservative weekly newspaper. Before taking the reigns as editor of Human Events Online, Mr. Bluey was the assistant editor and then managing editor of the print edition of Human Events. He writes frequently about breaking news in the nation's capital and across the globe. Bluey previously worked at Cybercast News Service, where he was the first to report on the forged CBS documents on President Bush's National Guard service. He covered the Republican and Democrat conventions in 2004. He grew up in upstate New York and graduated from Ithaca College.
Mr. Bluey joins us this afternoon to discuss the supreme job that his organization has done with a website link called Alitoblog.com - an internet blog covering the judicial nomination hearings of Judge Samuel Alito.
Mr. Bluey, thank you so much for joining us.
BLUEY: It's a pleasure.
GIACHINO: First, Mr. Bluey, please tell us more about Human Events Online - how the listeners can learn
more about it and who writes for the publication?
BLUEY: Certainly. It's pretty simple. Our website is humaneventsonline.com and it is a website for Human Events which is a 62 year-old conservative weekly, actually the oldest conservative weekly in the United States. We have always been based on Capitol Hill but we have an international focus. If you want the news of the day about Congress and what is happening in the conservative movement, we are your source. We were Ronald Reagan's favorite newspaper.
GIACHINO: That's a neat little quip. You have also had up for a number of weeks another site that people can visit called Alitoblog.com. Can you give us more information about that because it is still up and running?
BLUEY: It certainly is. We are certainly not out of the woods with Samuel Alito yet. Basically, what we decided was to make it easier for the readers -- to give them a specific site where they could follow all of the news as it was breaking and happening. Especially last week. And Alitoblog.com is the place to do that. Alitoblog.com is the web address and there you will find all of my coverage from last week in terms of what I was doing at the hearing. I was there throughout the week on bloggers row. So I got an up-close view of Samuel Alito and how he did.
GIACHINO: Well, it was a lot of time that you spent up there. I understand that the questioning went on for over 18 hours and that there were over 700 questions.
BLUEY: Over 700 questions, can you believe it? And he answered over 90 percent of them.
GIACHINO: That is unbelievable.
I was hoping when I scheduled you that we would be talking about the vote that was supposed to occur today in the Senate Judiciary Committee. But can you tell the listeners why it is that we cannot discuss the vote today?
BLUEY: Well, the Senate Democrats - those who serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee, seemed to be almost unanimously opposed to Alito's confirmation and plan to vote that way in the Committee. Well they decided to uphold a parliamentary tactic today to delay a vote for another week. So we will endure another week of Alito stories. Although there is not going to be much considering he answered so much and went through all of the Democrats' complaints last week.
However, this is a strategic move on the part of the Democrats. You see, President Bush's State of the Union Address is coming up in two weeks exactly, on January 31st, and they want to try to diminish the victory of two Supreme Court confirmations before that. If they can only give him say one day to celebrate before the State of the Union, they would be happy to do so.
GIACHINO: Well you wrote a piece that appeared today on Alitoblog.com and it is titled "Frist says Democrats Delay shows Desperation." And there is another article written by Matt Lewis and it says "Democrats mistaken to delay Alito vote." I want to talk a little about that because it raises a number of issues. I consider myself a little politically savvy, but he raises some fabulous points.
You bring up the point that their intent for the delay may be to minimize the amount of celebrating that the President will be able to do before the State of the Union address. But in actuality, it looks like there may be that awful green thing coming into play as the reason behind why Democrats may have delayed the vote - and we are talking about money. What did he mean by that?
BLUEY: You see this next week will allow the left wing interest groups the ideal opportunity to continue to beat away at Samuel Alito. I was at the hearings and it was very interesting to see all of the big time players in these groups that you expected to see at the hearings but when you see them up close and personal it is really something else. Ralph Neese, who is with People for the American Way, and Nan Aron with the Alliance for Justice, Eleanor Smeal with the Feminist Majority Foundation, etc. and these groups that made a big point about the judiciary and the threat that they see posed by President Bush's nominees. And raising money on this issue was a full-time job for them and they have become quite successful at it and that is another reason why the Senate Democrats put on such a show this past week - they need to answer to these groups. They have given them the talking points and the whole agenda behind opposing not only Samuel Alito and John Roberts but also President Bush's lower court nominees, some of them they filibustered and have never been confirmed.
GIACHINO: You are right. Well it is interesting and Matt also points out in his article that they may ultimately help the Republicans because the delay will take attention off the Abramoff scandal and continue to focus attention on the older out-of-touch Democrats like the Kennedys and the Bidens and not allow some of the younger hipper Democrats to get some of their face time. And it also muddies the water. I think you would certainly be hard pressed to find anyone in America, no matter where you sit on partisan politics, who was not sort of embarrassed by the behavior of the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the hearings. I think it perhaps boosted Alito's chances.
BLUEY: Right. We certainly could look back on a few instances last week. For example, the instance where Alito's wife broke down in tears and that was a very telling moment. If you look at the overall situation facing Samuel Alito and the hard road that he had to travel in terms of his confirmation - much harder than John Roberts. You will remember that Roberts was replacing Rehnquist and so it was a conservative replacing a conservative. With Alito, he is replacing a moderate - Sandra Day O'Connor, who cast a very important vote in a case just today about Oregon's suicide law. Alito's vote may have been different in this case. The liberals and Democrats in the Committee wanted to make him answer some tough questions because they wanted to do everything in their power to try to derail him.
GIACHINO: I think you have answered one of the questions that I was going to ask you later on. That is, whether the hearings are different and the outcome as well because it is the notoriously swing-vote seat of Sandra Day O'Connor?
BLUEY: Certainly it makes a difference and the Democrats kept making that point over and over again that they were going to hold Alito to a higher standard because he was replacing O'Connor. However, John Cornyn, the Senator from Texas, and several other Republicans on the Committee kept making the point, quite appropriately, that these seats are not based on any specific ideology. The fact that he is replacing O'Connor does not matter what O'Connor's ideology was or how she would vote. That does not matter. It is not like we have four liberals and four conservatives and a swing vote. You could have 7 liberals and 2 conservatives or 6 conservatives and 3 liberals. It does not matter. But the Democrats were trying to make that point repeatedly. I think the American people understand that and I think that the Democrats quickly dropped that argument once they realized that it was not going to carry any weight.
GIACHINO: Okay, so the vote that was supposed to happen today in the Senate Judiciary Committee has been delayed for another week. Do you think that that means that we will not have a filibuster?
BLUEY: I am not so certain. Certainly you have Dianne Feinstein, the Senator from California, who sits on the Committee saying that she does not think that the filibuster is a good idea. And basically was saying that the Democrats should not go that route. However, Chuck Schumer, the Democrat from New York, said he wants to keep that option open. If anybody has the ability to rally the troops it is probably Schumer. So it is too early to say. I think the Democrats would have a very difficult time rallying up the votes - the 41 votes, to maintain the filibuster. There are a lot of red state Democrats, as they are calling them, who are up for election in 2006 who if they vote for a filibuster of Samuel Alito they could have a hard time answering to voters who do not see him as radical and extreme as the Democrats make him out to be.
GIACHINO: I know that Alitoblog.com was one of the first to report about the cancellation of the Democrats' bombshell witness. Can you explain to us why Senate Democrats pulled Stephen Dujack as a witness for Alito's confirmation hearings?
BLUEY: This was a big story that did not get as much coverage in the liberal press as it probably should have. The Democrats, on the eve of the confirmation hearing, the Friday before the hearings were scheduled to begin, had this witness lined up who was going to drop the bombshell about Alito's time at Princeton and his membership after he graduated in a group called the Concerned Alumni of Princeton.
Well Senator Kennedy certainly picked up the ball where Dujack was going to and really ran with it. However Kennedy did not make any inroads either because it was revealed that Kennedy in fact was a member of his own exclusive club so it kind of pointed out the hypocritical nature of that. Dujack was cancelled only because of the controversial things that he had written in his past. In fact, in a Los Angeles Times op-ed from 2003, Dujack made the argument comparing farm animals to holocaust victims and he criticized people who eat meat. This article got out in the public realm and the next thing you knew the Democrats did not want anything to do with him and actually pulled him as a witness. So he did it to himself. He has since come out and said that his story has been distorted and tried to make the argument in other op-eds, including another one in the Los Angeles Times during the week of the hearing. I think that whole issue of the Princeton connection and the radical group that Alito was once a member of really fizzled after the Democrats realized that Alito really did not have much association with it after all.
GIACHINO: You mentioned Senator Teddy Kennedy. And I think that he had a lot of controversy surrounding him with the hearings. Particularly with respect to allegations that he made that Alito was a racist. Is that right?
BLUEY: That's right. Kennedy, in his opening statement, was there from the beginning with his attack against Alito and he was going after Alito on several court cases which he said Alito ruled against anyone who was just your average Joe citizen. He said he paid particular attention in going after black Americans. And then Kennedy extended those arguments when he tried to pin Alito down on his association with the Princeton group because somebody Alito had never heard of or an article he had never read appeared in this magazine called Prospect. And this magazine was distributed to all people who were alumni. It included an article that made some racist comments. So using these arguments, Kennedy was trying to justify his assertion that Alito was a racist. Obviously, I don't think most people bought into that. I think the fact that you have polls coming out, including The Washington Post poll, showing that Samuel Alito gets overwhelming support for confirmation seems to suggest that the Democrats' move just backfired.
GIACHINO: In today's day and age of modern technology, it seems we can't do anything or make any decision without an opinion poll on the matter. I know that last week, ABC published a poll claiming that Americans support the nomination of Judge Alito 2-1, while CBS claimed that their poll indicates that 77 percent were undecided. What role, if any, do you think opinion polls should have on the judicial nomination process? Do you think the Senators even care what the general public really thinks?
BLUEY: Well I think that people pay attention to them in the regard that the Democrats use them as kind of a bell-weather for how much mud to throw at him. And they certainly did throw a lot of mud at him. But if the Democrats saw that less than 50% of Americans thought Alito should have been confirmed to the court they probably would have made it a little harder - there probably would have been a lot more of the things that you and I think were disrespectful. I really don't know if they would base their vote on a poll.
Certainly if they do, according to The Washington Post poll, 40% of Democrats nationwide think that Alito should be confirmed and I don't think you are going to find 40% of the Democrats in the Senate voting for Alito's confirmation. So I think that it just provides that kind of indicator and I think the fact the polls showed in advance of the hearings that the tactics that the liberal interest groups had taken part in had not worked diminished the mood and probably depressed the Democrats.
GIACHINO: Were there any big surprises for you during the hearings?
BLUEY: One of the interesting things is a story that I can tell that you probably did not hear about but it just goes to show you how Republicans are becoming a lot more tech savvy as they gear up for the 2006 and 2008 elections. They made special arrangements to have a bloggers row and they made special arrangements to have conservative oriented bloggers, including myself, to participate. And these bloggers were given access to Bill Frist, John Cornyn, Orrin Hatch and almost all of the members of the Judiciary Committee. And given a briefing about the '06 races. Earlier in the week I met with Karl Rove. This was a new approach that the GOP was taking in not relying on the liberal press anymore to necessarily get their message out. They are going to people who have become quite popular - these bloggers. There are so many bloggers out there. Anybody can be a blogger. And if you become well enough known and picked up by the Drudge Report or other big outlets that can really spread the message, I think the Republican party feels that you can be more effective than the liberal media. And they did exactly this with the Alito hearings. They made sure that the bloggers got the news that they wanted them to get. I think they were quite proud of how it turned out.
GIACHINO: Speaking of the liberal news media, I think you reported on Alitoblog.com that The Washington Post was going to come out and endorse Judge Alito. Did that happen?
BLUEY: Yes, they did. The Washington Post, along with several other newspapers, endorsed Alito. Now the Post endorsement is somewhat symbolic because the Post is thought of as a liberal paper, especially on its editorial page where it does not shy away from bashing President Bush. I think that is why you have some folks like Senator Feinstein cautioning her fellow Democratic Senators not to engage in a filibuster because I think that they see that as a means that could really backfire for them. You have to remember that this is an election year and a lot of Democrats are up for re-election and there is dissatisfaction with Congress in general. The Democrats have to be careful not to overstep or overplay their hand.
GIACHINO: Okay Robert we have about a minute left and I am going to give you the chance to say that you said it first here on "Your Turn." You mentioned that on bloggers row you talked with a lot of folks about the '06 election, can you look ahead and tell me who you put on the '08 ticket?
BLUEY: Well that is very interesting. On Humaneventsonline.com your listeners can vote right now on who they want to see on the Republican party ticket. I'll give you a sneak peek - the early frontrunners appear to be Condoleezza Rice, George Allen and surprisingly doing well are Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani. Now Condoleezza Rice obviously has taken herself out. She has done so repeatedly but I think that she certainly could be a wild card. I think people would love to see a Condi-Hillary race. If that's the case, we certainly would be in store for quite a news cycle, I bet.
GIACHINO: Okay, so you are putting Hillary on the Democratic ticket?
BLUEY: I think that Hillary is the candidate to beat. The only person who might be able to give her some competition at this point appears to be Mark Warner, the former governor of Virginia, who just stepped down, or was forced to step down. He is a moderate and if he is not able to take Hillary down in a primary then maybe those two would join forces. But when I talk to Democrats around Washington, that seems to be the clear indicator that Hillary is the person they want to see run, that they have the confidence that she can win, and in fact Insight in the News - another publication here in Washington, is reporting that even in the White House, Bush's advisors are cautioning him that there may be nothing that he can do to stop Hillary.
GIACHINO: So Hillary goes from the Plantation to the White House. Well, Mr. Bluey thank you very much for talking with us. Please visit his organization's website at Humanevents.com. Also tune in to Alitoblog.com because they are going to continue to monitor this until we get that final vote. Thank you Mr. Bluey for joining us.
BLUEY: Thank you.February 2, 2006