Alito's Excuses

With the discovery of an entire arsenal of smoking guns documenting Judge Samuel Alito's fervent opposition to abortion rights, the media haven't really looked into the Supreme Court nominee's other questionable attributes. Which means we may need to wait until his confirmation hearings in January to learn what Alito was thinking when he failed to recuse himself from a 2002 case involving three companies owned by the Vanguard Investment Funds -- in which he had more than $500,000 invested.

Alito has offered half-a-dozen implausible explanations of how he missed this glaring conflict of interest. He has variously argued that since the panel of judges ruled unanimously, his participation really didn't make a difference, and that the pledge he made to the Judiciary Committee in 1990 to recuse himself from cases involving Vanguard had simply lapsed.

But easily our favorite Alito excuse is this one: In one letter, he called his participation in the case an “oversight,” even though, as Senator Edward Kennedy has documented, Alito headed a panel of judges that had to review the case's briefs. In those documents, the name “Vanguard” appeared more than 400 times. That's some oversight -- a little like reading Moby Dick and missing the whale.

-- Harold Meyerson

Help Wanted

It comes as no surprise that morale at the White House is not at its highest these days. Once upon a time, 1600 was inundated with resumes from eager potential recruits, but in early December the administration had to resort to an unusual mass e-mail imploring movement conservatives to recommend candidates for “openings across the administration in various full-time capacities,” including some “senior positions” in areas ranging from “communications (i.e. press, speechwriting)” to “legislative affairs.” The e-mail sought “talented, loyal people to fill key positions in the Bush Administration.” Interesting. Talent and loyalty have typically acted in inverse proportion in this administration. Nice to see they're trying something different.

The Play's The Thing

The funniest e-mail we've received recently took us to tinyrevolution.com, where we found a brilliant work by one Jonathan Schwarz entitled, “A Short Play Starring Christopher Hitchens.” The play, consisting of nine lines of dialogue, certainly lives up to its name. But what lines they are! The dramatis personae include Hitchens, Reality, and Vast Majority of Humanity. As the action begins, VMOH, stage left, voices opposition to the Iraq War. The Hitchens character -- stage right -- accuses VMOH of Stalinist tendencies, avows that WMDs will be found any day now, and delivers himself of verisimilar bellicosity (“it's obvious to anyone who can think at all!”). Enter Reality, which, without words, “punches Hitchens very, very hard in the face.” Exeunt all. A heartbreaking work of staggering genius.

Spun Silver

In a December 4 interview in The New York Times Magazine, actor and “9-11 Republican” Ron Silver described “kibbitzing” with President Bush at the Kennedy Center honors: “He is really a likable guy. At one point he said: ‘You're a good man, Ronnie. It is nice to see you.' And I was kidding around, so I said, ‘Mr. President, only my mother calls me Ronnie.' And he looks me in the eye and says, ‘You're a good man, Ronnie.'” Question: Is “likable” really the first word that comes to mind when you hear this anecdote?

Hey, It's A Compliment

Congressman Steve King, reliably crazy Republican of Iowa, led a successful surprise move earlier this fall to block a Democratic measure naming a Berkeley post office after 94-year-old community activist Maudelle Shirek, whom King alleged had communist ties. California Democrat Barbara Lee, who represents Berkeley, complained that King's move was “better suited to the era of Joe McCarthy,” to which King responded with a hearty “thank you kindly!” “If she studied her history,” he said of Lee in an interview, “she'd recognize Joe McCarthy was a hero for America.” Good night, Ms. Shirek, and good luck.

One-Industry Town

“You know what the Democrats' problem is? They're trying to be the party of the everyman, so they don't appeal enough to the upper crust.

“The thing about Bush, man, is he's slick. You gotta give that to him. The man is slick. He attacked Iraq saying that there was all these weapons, then we were in there and weren't no weapons, and he said we gotta be there to build democracy! That's slick.

“Bush knew how to win, man. He went down to Florida [during the 2004 campaign] and he told those Hispanic people, ‘I am going to make you citizens.' When he said that to those people, that was it. He wiped the African American vote out right there.”

James Carville? No, a homeless man on the #66 bus, early November.

Ba-Da-Bing

As spoken by a Democratic member of Congress at a recent party: “We now think it's pretty clear that Dick Cheney lied to Congress. This, of course, is an impeachable offense. But if we impeach Cheney, then Bush becomes president.”

Works Every Week

David Broder's December 1 column was headlined “A Pox on Both Parties.” As this could have been the headline of every third David Broder column since about 1981, it spurred us to think of all-purpose headlines for the output of other columnists: “Ahmed Sez,” by Jim Hoagland; “My Indian Cabdriver's Mixed Metaphors About Freedom,” by Tom Friedman; “Liberal Self-Loathing,” by Richard Cohen; “I'm Too Clever for This Town,” by Maureen Dowd.

Cold “War”

Fox News host John Gibson and his network colleagues spent the season relentlessly flogging his book, The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought. So what do they have to show for it, among a book-buying public that has regularly sent wingnut titles shooting up the charts? On December 13, the day we went to press, War was at No. 286 on the Amazon charts. But hey, that puts him four spots ahead of The O'Reilly Factor for Kids.

Did He Serve Snacks?

Some hardliners, impressed with the great success of our Iraq adventure, are still pushing the Bush administration to turn its attention to Syria. And so, into town in early December strolled Farid Ghadry, the head of the Syrian Reform Party. Among those from whom he sought advice, according to The Wall Street Journal, was none other than Ahmed Chalabi. Ghadry told the paper that “Ahmed paved the way in Iraq for what we want to do in Syria.” The meeting place? Richard Perle's living room. The guy just doesn't stop. Actually, where else?

Derb Dish

John Derbyshire is a National Review Online columnist who, while frequently scribbling away on matters of import, remains perhaps best known for writing a coarse attack on Chelsea Clinton back in 2001 (“I Hate Chelsea Clinton”). Similar assertions have popped up here and there in his oeuvre. And so, a little while back, the Prospect's blog, Tapped, pointed out the major ew-factor associated with Derbyshire's assertions that “the human female is visually attractive to the human male at, or shortly after, puberty, and for only a few brief years thereafter” and that “very few of us are interesting to look at in the buff … a woman's salad days are shorter than a man's -- really, in this precise context, only from about 15 to 20.” Within an hour of the item's posting on our blog, a conservative blogger wrote in to ask: “Dude. Are you guys really just now catching on to how creepy Derbyshire is? Have you ever looked up his ruminations on Zhang Ziyi and Asian lesbians? I give you the definitive collection. And yes, you have to read them all for the full effect.” This was followed by not one, not two, but 13 different links. Interestingly, he wrote his attack on Ms. Clinton on the occasion of her turning 21, thus exiting the preferred Derb demographic. The nerve of that girl!

Our Kind of Gals

All hail Didi Goldmark of New Hope, Pennsylvania, who accomplished what no member of the White House press corps -- despite their dozens of opportunities to ask the question in the past few months -- has managed to pulled off: She got George W. Bush to acknowledge that Iraqis have died. In fact, 30,000 of them, according to the president. Further props to Faeze Woodville, an Iranian by birth and a naturalized U.S. citizen, who asked Bush why he keeps linking September 11 to the Iraq War. Bush's response:
“9-11 changed my look on foreign policy.” In his world, that's link enough; Woodville, however, told the press, “He must think we're morons.”

The question: what should george w. bush's new year's resolution be?

“I will drop privatization and spend far more time trying to improve major league baseball, a subject about which I am genuinely knowledgeable and have sound views.”

-- EJ Dionne, Washington Post columnist

“Next time someone camps out in a ditch outside the ranch, I'll meet with ‘em right away.”

-- Arianna Huffington, proprietor, The Huffington Post

“I resolve to install a television set in the Oval Office and turn it on during natural disasters.”

-- Nora Ephron, director and writer

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