Judge Samuel Alito is expected to be confirmed by the Senate today to the United States Supreme Court, despite the hilarious tirade launched on the Senate floor yesterday by an apparently-drunk Ted Kennedy.
The significance of this can hardly be overstated. For the first time in years, an openly conservative justice has been named to the Court. The Bush administration showed enough fortitude (despite the disasterous Harriet Miers misstep) to nominate a non-stealth candidate. The Democrats' attempts to smear him backfired, and a new era seems to have begun in which liberals will be unable to successfully oppose a conservative nominee based on the abortion issue alone. All of these things represent massive changes for the good.
Nonetheless, conservatives still need to be hoping for a John Paul Stevens or a Ruth Bader Ginsburg to disappear from the court before they can expect consistently constitutional rulings. Anthony Kennedy, who had been a "swing vote" on the Rehnquist Court, fancies himself a balancer, and I believe that he will begin to vote consistently liberal now that conservatives seem to have a reliable fourth vote.
As the wishy-washy swing vote with no discernable constitutional reasoning or philosophy of interpretation, Justice Kennedy now becomes the most powerful man in America, representing the 4-4 tie-breaker on each controversial case as the wind blows him. He will relish his role and give the constant public appearance of great angst and deliberation, since former Court clerks say he's obsessed with appearing "thoughtful" to the media. But rest assured that his desire to please the media will cause him to cast liberal, nothing-to-do-with-the-Constitution votes on all the truly important issues.
He'll be the reigning potentate of America--until conservatives pick up one more seat.
UPDATE-11:19 am: Alito has been confirmed by the Senate 58-42, and will be sworn in shortly. Alito will attend the State of the Union message tonight in the chamber of the House of Representatives as the newest Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. It's enough to make even me smile.
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