• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

CounterPunch needs you. piggybank-icon You need us. The cost of keeping the site alive and running is growing fast, as more and more readers visit. We want you to stick around, but it eats up bandwidth and costs us a bundle. Help us reach our modest goal (we are half way there!) so we can keep CounterPunch going. Donate today!

The Case Against Alito

“Nominees should only be filibustered under extraordinary circumstances, and each signatory must use his or her own discretion and judgment in determining whether such circumstances exist.”

MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING ON JUDICIAL NOMINATIONS–The Gang of Fourteen (14) also known as “The Mod(erate) Squad”

The nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court has, whether we recognize it or not, driven America to the brink. Alito crystallizes a constellation of crises enveloping constitutional democracy as we have known it in America. The political ramifications of the Alito nomination are Byzantine. They are set out below.

In spite of the fact that the First Amendment enshrines the freedom of speech in a pre-eminent position in our constitution, members of the Senate have taken the extraordinary step of curtailing their own rights to free speech. Majority Leader Bill Frist, a putative presidential candidate in 2008, has even threatened to launch what he and others call the “Nuclear Option,” to outlaw the use of the filibuster.

In spite of Frist’s dire threat, there is already a mechanism in place to curtail filibusters. Sixty senators can vote for cloture to end a filibuster. That Bill Frist is willing to discard this parliamentary and congressional tradition suggests that he has little respect for freedom of speech–even among his colleagues in the Senate.

Frist’s threat to nuke the filibuster led to a temporary compromise that has taken an astonishing form. Calling themselves “The Mod(erate) Squad” or “The Gang of Fourteen (14)” a self-appointed group of seven Republicans and seven Democrats coalesced around the idea of limiting the freedom of speech and cutting off debate in the senate. They committed themselves to the virtual elimination of the filibuster specifically in cases involving judicial nominations.

The Gang of 14 rationalize their collaboration to curtail free speech and debate in the Senate as their attempt to avoid Bill Frist’s Nuclear Option and his stated ambition of bringing about the ultimate end of the filibuster in American political life–until there is, once again, a majority of Senators who would support its reincarnation.

Today, these fourteen Senators may hold the power to confirm or deny Samuel Alito’s rise to the Supreme Court. If they do not permit a filibuster to unfold against Alito, they will participate in the destruction of freedom of speech in Congress. Likewise, if Bill Frist deploys the “Nuclear Option” he will be indelibly branded as the greatest enemy of the freedom of speech in American history. The stakes are high.

To date, the Gang of 14 have been involved in the nomination of five judges to the federal bench. Three have been approved by narrow margins, and two remain unconfirmed. These two unconfirmed nominees, William Myers and Henry Saad, are deemed to meet the necessary qualification of “extraordinary circumstances,” to permit a filibuster–so radical are their agendas.

I believe that Samuel Alito meets the criteria for extraordinary circumstances as well. During his interrogation by the Judiciary Committee last week, Alito was uninformative, disingenuous, reticent and furtive in many of his responses to questions on a host of issues that strike at the heart of constitutional democracy in America.

Alito belonged to an organization dedicated to the exclusion of women and minorities from Princeton University. Alito opposes Roe versus Wade, and he has proposed robust legal strategies to strike it down. Alito opposes the principal of one person, one vote, and he has investigated constitutional means of gerrymandering, redistricting and voter suppression. Alito supports dangerously new levels of presidential power for the Chief Executive and his leading law enforcement officials that would deny American citizens their civil rights to privacy in their communications, an integral right that has been identified in the First, Fourth and Fifth amendments to the Constitution.

It must be stated that judge Alito’s preference for escalating levels of presidential power taken in conjunction with his well-established penchant for siding with corporations and state governments against private citizens is alarming.

Alito represents the very real threat of a virulent and reactionary reconstitution of American culture. Alito’s crusade for the expansion of the powers of the state and the presidency, and his parallel campaign to curtail the civil rights of Americans, especially women and minorities, reveals the mind of a man driven by a controlling ideology.

Alito stands starkly before America today as a radical. He represents the direct threat of theocratic authoritarianism to bring an end to constitutional democracy, the kind of democratic process that has been the unmistakable hallmark of American greatness since 1776.

Far stronger terms could be used to define Alito, but they are not necessary. Samuel Alito is quite simply Un-American both in his overwhelming devotion to increasing the powers of higher authorities and in his professional incapacity to preserve individual rights when they conflict with the powers of the state.

Alito would relieve the presidency of its responsibilities and rules to protect and defend the constitution as we have known it. Alito would transform the President into an epauletted Commander-in-Chief who would be in sole command of national security while consigning constitutional rights, civil rights, human rights and equal rights to the rubbish bin of American history.

Today. America is teetering on the brink of an abyss. Constitutional democracy and the free, open and tolerant society it has fostered are America’s terra firma, while–with the Alito nomination–the abyss of totalitarianism opens its jaws to radicalism, reaction and religious supremacy over the state and its Constitution.

Today, the senate is behaving like a victim of vertigo, staggering and losing its balance on the knife-edge of American history.

MICHAEL CARMICHAEL lives in Oxford, England. He can be reached at: mc@planetarymovement.org



More articles by:


Weekend Edition
May 24, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Iran, Venezuela and the Throes of Empire
Melvin Goodman
The Dangerous Demise of Disarmament
Jeffrey St. Clair
“The Army Ain’t No Place for a Black Man:” How the Wolf Got Caged
Richard Moser
War is War on Mother Earth
Andrew Levine
The (Small-d) Democrat’s Dilemma
Russell Mokhiber
The Boeing Way: Blaming Dead Pilots
Rev. William Alberts
Gaslighters of God
Phyllis Bennis
The Amputation Crisis in Gaza: a US-Funded Atrocity
David Rosen
21st Century Conglomerate Trusts 
Jonathan Latham
As a GMO Stunt, Professor Tasted a Pesticide and Gave It to Students
Binoy Kampmark
The Espionage Act and Julian Assange
Kathy Deacon
Liberals Fall Into Line: a Recurring Phenomenon
Jill Richardson
The Disparity Behind Anti-Abortion Laws
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Chelsea Manning is Showing Us What Real Resistance Looks Like
Zhivko Illeieff
Russiagate and the Dry Rot in American Journalism
Norman Solomon
Will Biden’s Dog Whistles for Racism Catch Up with Him?
Yanis Varoufakis
The Left Refuses to Get Its Act Together in the Face of Neofascism
Lawrence Davidson
Senator Schumer’s Divine Mission
Thomas Knapp
War Crimes Pardons: A Terrible Memorial Day Idea
Renee Parsons
Dump Bolton before He Starts the Next War
Yves Engler
Canada’s Meddling in Venezuela
Katie Singer
Controlling 5G: A Course in Obstacles
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Beauty of Trees
Jesse Jackson
Extremist Laws, Like Alabama’s, Will Hit Poor Women the Hardest
Andrew Bacevich
The “Forever Wars” Enshrined
Ron Jacobs
Another One Moves On: Roz Payne, Presente!
Christopher Brauchli
The Offal Office
Daniel Falcone
Where the ‘Democratic Left’ Goes to Die: Staten Island NYC and the Forgotten Primaries   
Julia Paley
Life After Deportation
Sarah Anderson
America Needs a Long-Term Care Program for Seniors
Seiji Yamada – John Witeck
Stop U.S. Funding for Human Rights Abuses in the Philippines
Shane Doyle, A.J. Not Afraid and Adrian Bird, Jr.
The Crazy Mountains Deserve Preservation
Charlie Nash
Will Generation Z Introduce a Wizard Renaissance?
Ron Ridenour
Denmark Peace-Justice Conference Based on Activism in Many Countries
Douglas Bevington
Why California’s Costly (and Destructive) Logging Plan for Wildfires Will Fail
Gary Leupp
“Escalating Tensions” with Iran
Jonathan Power
Making the World More Equal
Cesar Chelala
The Social Burden of Depression in Japan
Stephen Cooper
Imbibe Culture and Consciousness with Cocoa Tea (The Interview)
Stacy Bannerman
End This Hidden Threat to Military Families
Kevin Basl
Time to Rethink That POW/MIA Flag
Nicky Reid
Pledging Allegiance to the Divided States of America
Louis Proyect
A Second Look at Neflix
Martin Billheimer
Closed Shave: T. O. Bobe, the Girl and Curl
David Yearsley
Hard Bop and Bezos’ Balls