Monday, October 31, 2005

The Catholic Card

How long before it drops on Alito?
If Samuel Alito is confirmed by the Senate, he will be the fifth Catholic on the nine-justice panel. I wonder how long it will take for the opposition to play the Catholic card against him. Dick Durbin previously tried to make John Robert’s Catholicism an issue.

After the administration’s not-too-well-thought-out attempt to appeal to the public on the basis of Harriet Meirs’ evangelical credentials, and considering that Alito represents a shift in the court power balance, I imagine the Dems will go for broke in their opposition.

It leaves them in a bit of a pickle. If they attack Alito’s religiosity, they will placate their rabid base but they will turn off almost everyone else. Religious bigotry just doesn’t play well in today’s America. There is still a fair amount of anti-catholic sentiment in the US, but most of it is on the pagan Left and among mainline (read leftist) protestants; the vast majority of Evangelicals and orthodox protestants make common cause with Catholics with regard to politics and social issues.

Alito has a ton of experience and a lengthy and distinguished track record. Therefore, they really can’t oppose him except for his views, and there is no real way to attack his views without either (a) making “litmus test” complaints about his potential rulings on certain issues, or (b) going after his religion. Neither one will win points with the people, and the longer they drag the process out, the closer it gets to next year’s election season.

There are people out there who think the whole Harriet Meirs thing was a smoke screen preparing for Bush’s real nominee. That’s way too Byzantine for me to buy into, and I just can’t see it as this administration’s style. But I can’t help thinking W has made a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. He has gotten his base back together, and he has left the wacko left loyal opposition in a rather unpalatable situation. On the drama side, it will be interesting to see how it plays out; on the practical side, I hope the confirmation goes through quickly.