Patterico's Pontifications


McCain Dissed Alito? Fund Says Yes, But the Jury Is Still Out

Filed under: 2008 Election,General,Judiciary — Patterico @ 12:01 am

John Fund writes:

Mr. McCain bruised his standing with conservatives on the issue when in 2005 he became a key player in the so-called gang of 14, which derailed an effort to end Democratic filibusters of Bush judicial nominees. More recently, Mr. McCain has told conservatives he would be happy to appoint the likes of Chief Justice John Roberts to the Supreme Court. But he indicated he might draw the line on a Samuel Alito, because “he wore his conservatism on his sleeve.”

My hostility to John McCain is well known to regular readers, and it’s tempting to believe this. But I’m not sure I do. I have a hard time believing John Fund would make up such a statement out of whole cloth — but the statement Fund attributes to McCain is inconsistent with a lot of other things McCain has said about Alito.

For example, McCain issued a statement about Alito in January 2006 that said in part:

I was pleased that the President nominated Judge Alito — as were many other members of this body. Though very favorably disposed, I reserved final judgment on his nomination out of respect for both the confirmation process and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. I do not take the Senate’s advice and consent role lightly, and I did not want to encourage a rush to judgment without the benefit of public hearings.

Those hearings have occurred, and since then I have announced that I will vote to confirm Judge Alito. Through 18 hours and over 700 questions before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the judge demonstrated that he will be an intelligent, fair, and open-minded Justice who respects the judiciary’s important but limited role of interpreting the law. I believe that he is worthy of not only my own support, but that of other members of this body. And, certainly, this nominee deserves an up-or-down vote.

. . . .

As the president said earlier this week, “There has been no sign of any extraordinary circumstance except for this extraordinary thing — he’s extraordinarily capable to serve on the Supreme Court.” I could not agree more.

Mr. President, Judge Alito is a man of outstanding qualifications whose record as a thoughtful conservative has won my vote. Without any reasonable doubt, it has also earned the support of this body.

That’s pretty warm praise. And McCain has praised Alito on other occasions. After Fund’s article came out, McCain held a blogger conference call denying Fund’s assertion. (No, I wasn’t invited to participate.) He flatly denied it to Byron York as well.

Tom Maguire rounds up more McCain praise for Alito and says: “I am going with Byron York on this one.”

Well, I’d like to hear what Fund has to say about all this. But he should really provide something solid to support his assertion — because McCain’s record of praise for Alito is pretty solid.

UPDATE: So far, Fund’s only support appears to be a claim that he has multiple (unnamed) sources. I’d like to hear more. I hope we do.

UPDATE x2: I see Professor Bainbridge has quoted the same speech I quoted. He also says:

I don’t really want key social policy disputes being decided by a 5-4 vote of the Supreme Court except where the Constitution admits of no other option.

That’s nice. Then how about voting for a Republican in 2008, rather than saying you’re going to sit the election out?

UPDATE x3: Bryan at Hot Air has audio of Fund on Mark Levin’s radio show, in which Fund stands by his story. Bryan says we need to hear more details, and I agree.

28 Responses to “McCain Dissed Alito? Fund Says Yes, But the Jury Is Still Out”

  1. RON PAUL!!

    No, just kidding, Ron’s a jackass.

    But seriously, Rudy has a record of fighting for conservative judges, and he’s a ruthless democrat fighter. Mccain doesn’t have the “fire in his belly” to stand up to dems, and on judges that will be very apparent very quickly.

    Romney? I don’t realy mind him, and as Mccain becomes a greater possibility, I find my distate for his haircut and flip-flops diminish a lot.

    But seriously, Rudy’s got a better record of standing up for himself. If only he hadn’t blown off New Hampshire.

    Jem (9e390b)

  2. Anybody in this nation declaring they will vote for REAL change can’t cast a vote for anybody other then Ron Paul.

    HE stand alone in the entire field stating such will happen.

    A loon he may be, but such is why we also have a congress, but for sure the public conversation will change.

    Mitt will make as good a president as any, and better then the rest in the field, but if change really is desired, there is only one candidate offering such. ONE!

    Enjoy the thoughts.

    TC (1cf350)

  3. That’s nice. Then how about voting for a Republican in 2008, rather than saying you’re going to sit the election out?

    I guess I question if McCain is actually a republican? I KNOW he not a conservative. So if he is the nominee… I will have to reevaluate if I am a republican. I will always be on the libertarian side of conservative.

    Screw McCain. I have no loyalty to politicians who show disdain for and act like they know better than the average citizens who elected them…

    BadBrad (67ab39)

  4. RE: Ron Paul… when you actually listen to the guy and give him a chance to explain his reasoning behind his positions… he makes a lot of sense. He really appeals to the “Conserva-tarian” in me…. but then he goes on about how we brought terrorism on ourselves (blame the victim) and he loses me totally.

    Foreign policy needs to be governed by one golden rule (no not the golden rule huckabee speaks of) the one that says “Do unto others before they do unto you.” I’m cool with withdrawling from the mid-east (over time) and alternative energy (so the arabs can drink their oil)… but I want someone I know speaks softly but carries a “Big Stik. when it comes to those who wish us harm. Ron Paul is not that man. I had hopes (fleeting) that the libertarians could field an actual effective candidate.

    BadBrad (67ab39)

  5. McCain has his public and private persona. Read what Santorum said – there is what he says in public, and what he does behind the scenes.

    If he was really interested in getting good judges confirmed, he would not have organized the gang of 14. Speaking of which, what are they doing about the stalled circuit couort nominees? McCain is primarily responsible for their stagnation, and for the breakdown in constitutional government that has resulted from the unbroken filibuster. We are in a judicial constitutional crisis thanks to him.

    McCain is a moderate who portrays himself as a conservative. You only hear about his conservative positions when an election approaches. Look at the real causes he supports – not one is “conservative,” except his support for victory in Iraq.

    Amphipolis (fdbc48)

  6. “in which Fund stands by his story. ”

    And don’t they all.

    Brad S (f4a3ad)

  7. So, just what is the news here…isn’t this the accepted practice among journalists?

    Since when was it bad for journalists NOT to “name sources”?!

    Ed Wallis (a33ae1)

  8. Amphi…

    Tell me you are ok with the “two personas?”

    And, that is about the guy who uses “straight talk?”

    Which persona will come out when needed most? The one America needs, or the other one???

    reff (bff229)

  9. You know, the more I think of McCain, the more I think a President McCain will be the best thing that happened to the conservative movement in a long time. Guys, McCain will bend over backwards to please you. He also wants you to realize that it’s ok to have friends in the news media, and it’s ok to curry favor with them.

    Most of all, he wants you to realize that your old way of fundraising was not sustainable, which is why he agreed to create 527 groups. And that’s just a subtle way of telling you people to get over this campaign finance reform business.

    Brad S (f4a3ad)

  10. reff, I never said it was OK. Fund may be right in spite of all the McCain quotes to the contrary. But this is virtually impossible to verify. All we can do is see a pattern.

    Amphipolis (fdbc48)

  11. #5: You do realize that the Republicans no longer control the Senate and that the Democrats now have the votes to block judicial nominees in committee so they don’t even get a floor vote don’t you?

    Look, if you think McCain erred in the Gang of 14 deal, fine. But if you are going to pile on over that at least recognize that the deal was a dispute over the best tactics to use to confirm judges, not over the best judges to confirm. And, also recognize that if the “nuclear option” had been used instead, the Democrats would be using the precedent to stop Republican fillibusters on other matters aside from judicial nominees.

    Sean P (e57269)

  12. And, certainly, this nominee deserves an up-or-down vote.

    In this context, the word “certainly” means “even though I’m ambiguous on my previous statement”. At least that’s how I take it. It’s pretty clear to me that McCain wouldn’t nominate him, even though if forced to take a side he would back him.

    Andy (169e43)

  13. I have heard that John McCain wants the United States to sign up to the International Criminal Court. If this is true, I am very uneasy about him as the Republican nominee. That and the judges question have me leaning toward Romney. I was a Guiliani person but it looks like he may not be able to remain viable.

    bio mom (a1e126)

  14. Here’s something from the American Spectator blog:

    “I just spoke with Fund about what he wrote about McCain just to be clear on if I could find other articles supporting the McCain quote. He noted that there’s a big distinction between McCain saying he didn’t like Alito, and McCain saying he might draw the line at Alito.

    “Might” is the operative term.

    And “might,” “maybe,” and similar wiggle-forgiving terms are precisely the currency McCain has been trading in, in order to stay on record as the “maverick” the press so adores. Conservatives find it obnoxious to find a guy so unwilling to identify with their line of thought, not because they need someone that agrees with them, but because guiding principles ought to be transparent to the public.

    McCain has rarely worked toward that end.”

    DRJ (517d26)

  15. McCain may well have, in a vacuum, not much liked Alito for personality reasons (“wears his conservatism on his sleeve” is a personality judgment). But after Bush chose him (rather than, say, Harriet Miers) he got on board. That McCain had a list of judges he would have preferred does not in itself make him unConservative.

    Kevin Murphy (805c5b)

  16. McCain has publicly denied making that statement and I believe him. He is too arrogant to lie and he does have a history of supporting Alito. Second, the Gang of 14 isn’t the worst thing to happen and the comment above that the Democrats now have ahold of the handle is absolutely correct. McCain is probably OK on judges. Where he leaves me cold is immigration. Plus, of course, campaign finance reform. If, for example, he accepts federal funds, he will be outspent by Hilary or Obama, neither of which will accept fed funds (which then bars them from accepting private donations).

    Mike K (f89cb3)

  17. McCain isn’t too arrogant to lie, Mike K. He’s been lying repeatedly about his reasons for opposing the Bush tax cuts. He says he voted against them because they weren’t accompanied by spending cuts. Yet at the time, he said he opposed them because they disproportionately favored the wealthy. And let’s not forget McCain’s eternal lie about being against amnesty for illegal aliens, when even he admitted in 2003 that he believed amnesty had to be an important part of comprehensive immigration reform. No, McCain is indeed a liar.

    By the way, Jem, you said, “Rudy has a record of fighting for conservative judges.” Name one.

    Alan (78d614)

  18. I don’t care whether Fund’s quote is accurate or not. After the Gang of 14 deal, nothing McCain says or promises during this campaign can reestablish his credibility with me on the subject of judicial nominations. Here’s the concluding paragraph from my overlong take on this subject on my own blog:

    Maybe if McCain is making a SCOTUS nomination, he really will pick another Roberts or Alito. What concerns me, though, is that at best, he’ll gladly let the Dems pressure him into packing the circuit and district courts with Kennedys, O’Connors, and occasional Souters. I have no doubt that John McCain would be willing to take on the Dems on matters of national security, even if it means a bloody, long-term dispute. But I also have no doubt that if pressed (and he will be), he would make his picks, and then cut quiet deals left and right, to avoid such fights over judicial nominees below the SCOTUS level. Since he’s already abandoned conservative principles and cut a deal with the Dems on nominees to those courts even when the GOP controlled the Senate, why would he possibly stand up to them as president, especially if they continue to control the Senate?

    It’s not the SCOTUS nominees I’m so worried about from McCain. It’s all the others, and on that subject, his past record is, for me, conclusive and thoroughly dismaying.

    Beldar (3df1f4)

  19. Sean P (#11): You’re dead wrong. The “constitutional option” (a/k/a “nuclear option”) was never, ever argued to apply to anything but filibusters on judicial nominations. This is a popular, but absolutely wrong-headed, misconception. (Longer explanations here (a current summary) and, contemporaneously, here (from 2004, with links and quotes).

    Beldar (3df1f4)

  20. I have to agree on immigration and on his explanation for voting no on tax cuts. At the time, I thought he could have made an honest argument (albeit wrong) for voting no on the tax cut from classical conservative (deficit) grounds but he didn’t. Even Graham was unable to explain his statements. I was simply referring to his face to face likelihood of a lie like that.

    Mike K (6d4fc3)

  21. I completely agree with Beldar that McCain can’t be trusted and there’s nothing he or anyone else can say to change that. But, also like Beldar, I’ll vote for McCain if my only other choice is Hillary. I know she won’t nominate someone like Alito.

    DRJ (517d26)

  22. Gang of 14; Immigration; McCain-Feingold…
    And, he still has coming a big bowl of whoop-ass for his membership in the Keating-5!

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  23. The Keating -5 scandal did not involve McCain except as a Democrat Senate wanted to make the scandal bipartisan. Desperately wanted to. Keating was a McCain constituent. The leader of the 5 was Alan Cranston, a California Democrat. McCain was the only Republican and he was a freshman. The problem that came out of that scandal was McCain’s pride. He was so angry to be dragged into that by his colleagues that he set off on a quest to drive soft money out of politics, a futile quest but one that has caused great harm.

    I don’t think they can use it against him what with Hillary having a fundraiser (Hsu) in jail and Obama’s big supporter indicted, and having his bond revoked last week.

    Mike K (86bddb)

  24. Mike K…
    I might be a little older, and perhaps think about these things differently; but, Keating was a big deal here in SoCal because of the Lincoln Savings collapse. As I remember it, McCain did perform some extra-ordinary constituent services for Keating that brought to bear the influence of Senators against the drones in the regulatory bureaucracy.
    He might not have personally profitted from it (he was quite pleased to accept Keating’s contributions, though) as some of his Dem colleagues did, but it did soil his rep, and made him a lessor person for it. His crusade against political money and his perception of the corruption caused by that money, has not made politics a better calling; and, has not made him a better person for it.

    Another Drew (758608)

  25. Yes, vote for Ron Paul if you want change. Because we all miss 1930s Germany.

    A poltician and a journalist…..
    Tough call, but I have to go with the poltician. Fund is either guilable or a dishonest liar.

    BTW, how hard is it for 3 people with an agenda against a nationally known pubic figure to get together and become “confidental sources”?

    Roy Mustang (98a6ea)

  26. Ok, I thought about it some more.

    Why can’t the sources be named?! This isn’t fu***** Watergate. Fund, you’re an asshole with an agenda. So in other words, you’re a journalist.

    Roy Mustang (98a6ea)

  27. #19: I’m not dead wrong, you just didn’t understand my argument.

    My point was that the nuclear option — whatever its original intent under a Republican controlled Senate — would give the majority Democrats the opening to repeal the fillibuster themselves on issues other than judicial nominations until the exception to the fillibusters defeated the purpose. And once the line had been crossed once, it would be extremely difficult to convincingly argue against crossing it a second (or third or fourth) time.

    Sean P (e57269)

  28. #19 (again) and ps: the fact that so many people believed (erroneously or not) that the nuclear option applied to all filibusters, I would say, reinforces my argument.

    Sean P (e57269)

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