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By Danny Schechter  Posted by Rob Kall (about the submitter)     Permalink
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New York, January 15: "It was a good week for Republicans," chuckled the New York Times house conservative David Brooks with a sh*t-eating grin as he welcomed the likely confirmation of Judge Samuel Alito Jr. Friday night on the PBS News Hour. His "liberal" debating partner Mark Shields was there to agree in yet another PBS program cleaving to the right while giving the appearance of being in the center.

The Judge handled himself well, said Brooks. He was not the angry ideologue pictured by the Democrats.

Shields agreed expressing admiration for his "judicial temperament."

And so, in media outlet after media outlet, another Administration-supporting consensus was reached, in part, because of they way media framed the story.

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They had bought and sold the pre-hearing hype that this would be the ultimate ideological "showdown" like some final round of Wrestle Mania. When Alito was left standing after what was falsely pictured as his race through a gauntlet, he was proclaimed a winner.


The Democrats were predictable, baiting Alito, and trying to use comments he made in the 1980's as well as his dense judicial record against him. Like many Generals, they were fighting the last war-the one against Court nominee Robert Bork who took on his attackers but whose arrogance and argumentative approach did him in.

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Significantly, when Bork himself was asked to comment on Alito's well-choreographed but evasive performance, he said, "The object nowadays is to get confirmed. People will say pretty much -- or avoid saying pretty much in order to get confirmed."

Didn't the Democrats realize that the Republicans would anticipate their knee-jerk approach, and then neutralize its dated and poorly executed confrontation strategy? Why weren't they on alert for dirty tricks like the phony crying spell by Alito's wife publicized by the very firm that promoted the Swift Boat veterans who smeared John Kerry?

What world were they in? Weren't they aware that Alito would be well coached (including by Senator Graham, a member of their own Committee), trained not to play to type and then to conceal more than reveal? He followed the lead of Judge Roberts by saying as little as possible and acting as thoughtful and reasonable as he could.

What the Republicans and their legions of spinners and echo chamber message disseminators understood-and the Democrats and many activists do not---is the hearings themselves are not really about issues, but impressions, not about politics but personalities, not about reality but perception.


They are a show and tell exercise put on for the media and through the media. They have become exercises in calculated denial and avoidance.

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"Senate hearings on Supreme Court nominees are close to the point of having no point," argues Martin Flaherty, a professor of constitutional law and history at Fordham Law School." The nominees say nothing, and the Senate doesn't make them say anything. It was evident in the Roberts hearings [for chief justice] but is reaching absurd levels with Alito."

Writing in the Baltimore Sun, Stephen Kiehl and Abigail Tucker dissect the GOP strategy. They call it "Practicing the art of saying little".

"Alito has been practicing, with varying degrees of success, the art of the non-answer answer," they explained. "Employed by politicians, business executives and others facing public scrutiny, the non-answer has become particularly routine to those seeking judicial confirmation since 1987."

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