Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Schumer Slander

Senator Chuck Schumer, ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, came out yesterday with a regretable analogy that I believe is slanderous in its suggestion:

"Like Rosa Parks, Judge Alito will be able to change history by virtue of where he sits. The real question today is whether Judge Alito would use his seat on the bench, just as Rosa Parks used her seat on the bus, to change history for the better or whether he would use that seat to reverse much of what Rosa Parks and so many others fought so hard and for so long to put in place."

John Podhertz

[Schumer] decided, in a pretty amazing display of bad taste, to use the late Rosa Parks' corpse as a weapon....

Now, it's one thing for a senator to say that Alito should not be confirmed because he is too conservative. That's been Schumer's stance on GOP judicial nominations, pure and simple, and while it may be wrong-headed, it's not disreputable. It's quite another for Schumer to oppose a conservative jurist by suggesting his views are implicitly segregationist. That's just a lousy and rotten thing to do.

Even more embarrassing for Schumer: His slander is just a cheap carbon copy of the real thing. That was Ted Kennedy's stunning 1987 evisceration of Robert Bork — you remember, when Kennedy took to the floor of the Senate mere minutes after Bork's nomination to say he would return America to a time when "blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters."

Kennedy's words ushered in a new era in American politics. It would be difficult to capture just how shocking that attack was. Nothing like it had ever been said by an elected official about someone who was not an elected official — unless he was speaking about the leader of an enemy country.

Bork's supporters were determined not to give the attack the time of day, presuming that it would boomerang — that people of good will would be disgusted by Kennedy's words and sympathetic to Bork. They didn't understand that the rules of the game had changed.

Fortunately for Alito, and unfortunately for Schumer & Co., in 2005 everybody knows the score. All and sundry understand that any judicial candidate with a record of any kind is going to be the object of a smear campaign.

As a result, the smears are almost instantly discounted. They aren't going to convince anyone; they're just an automatic and instantly forgettable aspect of our national political life, like balloons on election night or David Gergen's opinion on anything....