Commentary Magazine


Topic: Sam Alito

Desperation Time

The Democrats are now in full retreat. Less 75 days before the midterm elections, the Republicans have a historic lead in congressional generic polling. The president’s approval rating is sinking. It is now every man for himself, as the Democrats scramble to be the ones on the electoral lifeboat that will survive the electoral wave. The smarter and more vulnerable Democrats distance themselves from Obama on the Ground Zero mosque. A few savvy Senate Democrats back extension of the Bush tax cuts. And now they’re even promising to “improve” ObamaCare.

But wait. As to the latter, why not do it before the election? Hey, there is time. They claim that they’re not out of touch. They say the bill could use some work. So how about it, fellows? Oh, yes, I guess they don’t really mean it. This would be another gambit, a fraudulent inducement really, to convince voters to spare them the ax. We’ll put immigration reform at the top of the agenda. We’ll pass a budget. We’ll fix ObamaCare. Desperation rivals dishonesty as the central feature of their campaign strategy.

As the great philosopher Groucho Marx put it, you don’t like those principles? They’ve got other principles. Well, not a principle but an eye-rolling mantra of declining utility: George W. Bush.

It is worth pondering what they mean by invoking the name of the president whose approval is now higher than Obama’s in key congressional districts. The Republicans are going to start another surge and win the war in Iraq all over again? A Republican Senate will insist on judicial appointees of the caliber of John Roberts and Sam Alito? A Republican Congress will insist we not raise taxes in the midst of a recession or burden the private sector with a mind-numbingly complicated regimen of financial reforms? Many voters would say, “Sign me up!” As his brother Jeb Bush put it: “It’s a loser issue — they have a big L on their foreheads. If that’s all they’ve got, it’s a pretty good indication of the problems that the Democrats face in 2010.”

Then there is the old standby: insult the American people. We are bigots, rubes, and Constitutional illiterates, the left tells us. Finding themselves on the wrong side of an emotional issue, they have lashed out at the Ground Zero mosque opponents. It is too much even for Howard Dean: “I think some of my own folks on my end of the spectrum of the party are demonizing some fairly decent people that are opposed to this. Sixty-five percent of the people in this country are not right-wing biogts.” Aww, thanks, Howard. And it’s 68 percent, but who’s counting?

If you think the Democrats’ strategy seems scattered and bizarre, you are not alone. The voters, already cynical and angry, are unlikely to be charmed by transparent campaign inducements or to be scared by bogeymen. Nor are they likely to reward with their votes those labeling them racists. In fact, if the voters didn’t have reason to throw the Democrats out before, all of this may convince them it’s time to give others a chance.

The desperation of the left stems not merely from the prospect of an election wipeout but also from the potential for a repudiation of the undistilled liberal rule that has riled voters. The “permanent majority”, the shift from a center-right to a center-left country — that fantasy goes poof! The real possibility that ObamaCare will never go into effect, leaving as Obama’s sole accomplishment the completion of the Iraq war successfully waged against his objections, is no doubt terrifying to the left.

But if you think the Democrats are desperate now, wait until the election returns are in. The effort to explain the results — to furiously spin the returns as really good news for Obama and to simultaneously blame the results on anti-Muslim hysteria — will make the Democrats’ current campaign tactics seem tame and sane by comparison.

The Democrats are now in full retreat. Less 75 days before the midterm elections, the Republicans have a historic lead in congressional generic polling. The president’s approval rating is sinking. It is now every man for himself, as the Democrats scramble to be the ones on the electoral lifeboat that will survive the electoral wave. The smarter and more vulnerable Democrats distance themselves from Obama on the Ground Zero mosque. A few savvy Senate Democrats back extension of the Bush tax cuts. And now they’re even promising to “improve” ObamaCare.

But wait. As to the latter, why not do it before the election? Hey, there is time. They claim that they’re not out of touch. They say the bill could use some work. So how about it, fellows? Oh, yes, I guess they don’t really mean it. This would be another gambit, a fraudulent inducement really, to convince voters to spare them the ax. We’ll put immigration reform at the top of the agenda. We’ll pass a budget. We’ll fix ObamaCare. Desperation rivals dishonesty as the central feature of their campaign strategy.

As the great philosopher Groucho Marx put it, you don’t like those principles? They’ve got other principles. Well, not a principle but an eye-rolling mantra of declining utility: George W. Bush.

It is worth pondering what they mean by invoking the name of the president whose approval is now higher than Obama’s in key congressional districts. The Republicans are going to start another surge and win the war in Iraq all over again? A Republican Senate will insist on judicial appointees of the caliber of John Roberts and Sam Alito? A Republican Congress will insist we not raise taxes in the midst of a recession or burden the private sector with a mind-numbingly complicated regimen of financial reforms? Many voters would say, “Sign me up!” As his brother Jeb Bush put it: “It’s a loser issue — they have a big L on their foreheads. If that’s all they’ve got, it’s a pretty good indication of the problems that the Democrats face in 2010.”

Then there is the old standby: insult the American people. We are bigots, rubes, and Constitutional illiterates, the left tells us. Finding themselves on the wrong side of an emotional issue, they have lashed out at the Ground Zero mosque opponents. It is too much even for Howard Dean: “I think some of my own folks on my end of the spectrum of the party are demonizing some fairly decent people that are opposed to this. Sixty-five percent of the people in this country are not right-wing biogts.” Aww, thanks, Howard. And it’s 68 percent, but who’s counting?

If you think the Democrats’ strategy seems scattered and bizarre, you are not alone. The voters, already cynical and angry, are unlikely to be charmed by transparent campaign inducements or to be scared by bogeymen. Nor are they likely to reward with their votes those labeling them racists. In fact, if the voters didn’t have reason to throw the Democrats out before, all of this may convince them it’s time to give others a chance.

The desperation of the left stems not merely from the prospect of an election wipeout but also from the potential for a repudiation of the undistilled liberal rule that has riled voters. The “permanent majority”, the shift from a center-right to a center-left country — that fantasy goes poof! The real possibility that ObamaCare will never go into effect, leaving as Obama’s sole accomplishment the completion of the Iraq war successfully waged against his objections, is no doubt terrifying to the left.

But if you think the Democrats are desperate now, wait until the election returns are in. The effort to explain the results — to furiously spin the returns as really good news for Obama and to simultaneously blame the results on anti-Muslim hysteria — will make the Democrats’ current campaign tactics seem tame and sane by comparison.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Every Supreme Court nominee is an advocate of judicial restraint, but not all justices are. Elena Kagan: “[T]he Supreme Court is a wondrous institution. But the time I spent in the other branches of government remind me that it must also be a modest one – properly deferential to the decisions of the American people and their elected representatives. … That process is often messy and frustrating, but the people of this country have great wisdom, and their representatives work hard to protect their interests. The Supreme Court, of course, has the responsibility of ensuring that our government never oversteps its proper bounds or violates the rights of individuals. But the Court must also recognize the limits on itself and respect the choices made by the American people.” Like the choice to insist that military recruiters be given access to campuses?

Every Supreme Court confirmation hearing now seems like a charade. As Tom Goldstein noted: “There is nothing in her opening statement that would distinguish her from John Roberts or Sam Alito.” Except the fact that they really believed what they were saying.

By virtually every standard, Kagan is underqualified for the job: “Solicitor-General Elena Kagan practiced law at the Williams & Connolly firm here in the nation’s capitol for only two years, a much briefer stint than the 20.5 year average of other Supreme Court Justices who had no prior judicial tenure before joining the nation’s highest court.”

Not every case is as important as McDonald v. Chicago. Steven Calabresi: “The McDonald holding will lead to a slew of additional challenges against state and municipal laws around the country regulating or restricting the firearms rights of law-abiding citizens. Justice Alito’s opinion is also of tremendous importance because it is based on the premise that substantive due process rights must be deeply rooted in American history and tradition before the Supreme Court can protect them.”

Every new utterance by Peter Beinart is wackier than the last. “Even as Republicans claim political momentum, the country is in the midst of a major shift leftward when it comes to the role of government.” Yeah, right. Well, if every poll on the subject is wrong, I suppose this could be true.

Obama’s “reset” means giving in to every Russian demand without extracting anything in return. David Christy thinks we shouldn’t “feed the Russian bear” when it comes to entry into the WTO: “Everyone is focused on timing, but the issue is not whether or when Russia should join, but the terms. The fact of the matter is that Russia has yet to accept a set of commitments that justifies entry into the WTO. Terms that are too soft might have a negative impact on the WTO, Russia’s trading partners, and, in the long term, Russia itself.”

Every time someone calls Robert Byrd legendary, remember: “He participated in a filibuster of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and was the only member of the Senate to vote against the confirmation of both Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court.”

Every Supreme Court nominee is an advocate of judicial restraint, but not all justices are. Elena Kagan: “[T]he Supreme Court is a wondrous institution. But the time I spent in the other branches of government remind me that it must also be a modest one – properly deferential to the decisions of the American people and their elected representatives. … That process is often messy and frustrating, but the people of this country have great wisdom, and their representatives work hard to protect their interests. The Supreme Court, of course, has the responsibility of ensuring that our government never oversteps its proper bounds or violates the rights of individuals. But the Court must also recognize the limits on itself and respect the choices made by the American people.” Like the choice to insist that military recruiters be given access to campuses?

Every Supreme Court confirmation hearing now seems like a charade. As Tom Goldstein noted: “There is nothing in her opening statement that would distinguish her from John Roberts or Sam Alito.” Except the fact that they really believed what they were saying.

By virtually every standard, Kagan is underqualified for the job: “Solicitor-General Elena Kagan practiced law at the Williams & Connolly firm here in the nation’s capitol for only two years, a much briefer stint than the 20.5 year average of other Supreme Court Justices who had no prior judicial tenure before joining the nation’s highest court.”

Not every case is as important as McDonald v. Chicago. Steven Calabresi: “The McDonald holding will lead to a slew of additional challenges against state and municipal laws around the country regulating or restricting the firearms rights of law-abiding citizens. Justice Alito’s opinion is also of tremendous importance because it is based on the premise that substantive due process rights must be deeply rooted in American history and tradition before the Supreme Court can protect them.”

Every new utterance by Peter Beinart is wackier than the last. “Even as Republicans claim political momentum, the country is in the midst of a major shift leftward when it comes to the role of government.” Yeah, right. Well, if every poll on the subject is wrong, I suppose this could be true.

Obama’s “reset” means giving in to every Russian demand without extracting anything in return. David Christy thinks we shouldn’t “feed the Russian bear” when it comes to entry into the WTO: “Everyone is focused on timing, but the issue is not whether or when Russia should join, but the terms. The fact of the matter is that Russia has yet to accept a set of commitments that justifies entry into the WTO. Terms that are too soft might have a negative impact on the WTO, Russia’s trading partners, and, in the long term, Russia itself.”

Every time someone calls Robert Byrd legendary, remember: “He participated in a filibuster of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and was the only member of the Senate to vote against the confirmation of both Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court.”

Read Less

Supreme Court Bats .500

In case you had any doubt about the centrality of the Supreme Court in our society, the Court handed down two critically important decisions today.

In  McDonald v. Chicago, the Court held in a 5-to-4 decision (not surprisingly, Justice Sonia Sotomayor was in the minority) that the Second Amendment is applicable in states and localities via the Fourteenth Amendment. Local and state handgun bans will certainly be struck down, although the Court left room for some regulation, as it does with regard to other fundamental rights. A generation’s worth of conservative legal scholarship and thoughtful jurisprudence have vindicated a right so central in the Founders’ vision that it grabbed the No. 2 spot in the Bill of Rights. Elena Kagan, what say you on this?

In the other headline grabber of the day, Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, the Court ruled that schools can require religious groups to open their doors to everyone, even if it violates the members’ beliefs (well, the original members’ beliefs). Specifically, the issue was “whether a public institution’s conditioning access to a student organization forum on compliance with an all-comers policy violates the Constitution.” The Court held it was a content-neutral policy (e.g., Republican clubs have to take Democrats; Democratic clubs must take Republicans), so there was no First Amendment violation. (The inanity of such a policy is further proof that law schools, Hastings in this case, are fonts of many things except wisdom.) So pro-choice advocates gain entry into Catholic groups, Muslims may join the Hillel, and yes, gun-ban advocates can join an NRA group. It seems shocking, I am sure, to many Americans that the rights of association and religion don’t protect against mischief-making. In dissent, Justice Sam Alito argued:

Religious groups like CLS obviously engage in expressive association, and no legitimate state interest could override the powerful effect that an accept-all-comers law would have on the ability of religious groups to express their views. The State of California surely could not demand that all Christian groups admit members who believe that Jesus was merely human. Jewish groups could not be required to admit anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers. Muslim groups could not be forced to admit persons who are viewed as slandering Islam.

While there can be no question that the State of California could not impose such restrictions on all religious groups in the State, the Court now holds that Hastings, a state institution, may impose these very same requirements on students who wish to participate in a forum that is designed to foster the expression of diverse viewpoints.

Alito adds a final, devastating critique of the majority’s reasoning:

In response to the argument that the accept-all-comers-policy would permit a small and unpopular group to be taken over by students who wish to silence its message, the Court states that the policy would permit a registered group to impose membership requirements “designed to ensure that students join because of their commitment to a group’s vitality, not its demise.” … With this concession, the Court tacitly recognizes that Hastings does not really have an accept-all-comers policy—it has an accept-some-dissident-comers policy—and the line between members who merely seek to change a group’s message (who apparently must be admitted) and those who seek a group’s “demise” (who may be kept out) is hopelessly vague.

The result, I suspect, will not be chaos but rather the privatization of — and thus discrimination against — religious groups, which will no longer enjoy school financial support, use of facilities, etc. It is a perverse result but one that, for now, is the law of the land. Is Kagan keen on this one?

Don’t expect her to answer queries on either of these cases. The senators — both liberal and conservative — would do well to insist she does, however.

In case you had any doubt about the centrality of the Supreme Court in our society, the Court handed down two critically important decisions today.

In  McDonald v. Chicago, the Court held in a 5-to-4 decision (not surprisingly, Justice Sonia Sotomayor was in the minority) that the Second Amendment is applicable in states and localities via the Fourteenth Amendment. Local and state handgun bans will certainly be struck down, although the Court left room for some regulation, as it does with regard to other fundamental rights. A generation’s worth of conservative legal scholarship and thoughtful jurisprudence have vindicated a right so central in the Founders’ vision that it grabbed the No. 2 spot in the Bill of Rights. Elena Kagan, what say you on this?

In the other headline grabber of the day, Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, the Court ruled that schools can require religious groups to open their doors to everyone, even if it violates the members’ beliefs (well, the original members’ beliefs). Specifically, the issue was “whether a public institution’s conditioning access to a student organization forum on compliance with an all-comers policy violates the Constitution.” The Court held it was a content-neutral policy (e.g., Republican clubs have to take Democrats; Democratic clubs must take Republicans), so there was no First Amendment violation. (The inanity of such a policy is further proof that law schools, Hastings in this case, are fonts of many things except wisdom.) So pro-choice advocates gain entry into Catholic groups, Muslims may join the Hillel, and yes, gun-ban advocates can join an NRA group. It seems shocking, I am sure, to many Americans that the rights of association and religion don’t protect against mischief-making. In dissent, Justice Sam Alito argued:

Religious groups like CLS obviously engage in expressive association, and no legitimate state interest could override the powerful effect that an accept-all-comers law would have on the ability of religious groups to express their views. The State of California surely could not demand that all Christian groups admit members who believe that Jesus was merely human. Jewish groups could not be required to admit anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers. Muslim groups could not be forced to admit persons who are viewed as slandering Islam.

While there can be no question that the State of California could not impose such restrictions on all religious groups in the State, the Court now holds that Hastings, a state institution, may impose these very same requirements on students who wish to participate in a forum that is designed to foster the expression of diverse viewpoints.

Alito adds a final, devastating critique of the majority’s reasoning:

In response to the argument that the accept-all-comers-policy would permit a small and unpopular group to be taken over by students who wish to silence its message, the Court states that the policy would permit a registered group to impose membership requirements “designed to ensure that students join because of their commitment to a group’s vitality, not its demise.” … With this concession, the Court tacitly recognizes that Hastings does not really have an accept-all-comers policy—it has an accept-some-dissident-comers policy—and the line between members who merely seek to change a group’s message (who apparently must be admitted) and those who seek a group’s “demise” (who may be kept out) is hopelessly vague.

The result, I suspect, will not be chaos but rather the privatization of — and thus discrimination against — religious groups, which will no longer enjoy school financial support, use of facilities, etc. It is a perverse result but one that, for now, is the law of the land. Is Kagan keen on this one?

Don’t expect her to answer queries on either of these cases. The senators — both liberal and conservative — would do well to insist she does, however.

Read Less

Americans Not Thrilled with Kagan

Gallup reports that Elena Kagan is rated a good or excellent choice by 40 percent of Americans, lower than John Roberts, Sam Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, and even Harriet Miers. In large part this is because 24 percent of Americans have no opinion of her at all, which seems appropriate for a stealth nominee who has not served on the bench or written anything that would give us a strong indication of what sort of justice she’d be.

Maybe she’ll wow the Senate and the public, give us plenty of indication as to her constitutional philosophy, and show mastery of the many areas of the law that will soon command her attention. But I sort of doubt it. Kagan got this far by not tipping her hand; she’s not about to now.

Gallup reports that Elena Kagan is rated a good or excellent choice by 40 percent of Americans, lower than John Roberts, Sam Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, and even Harriet Miers. In large part this is because 24 percent of Americans have no opinion of her at all, which seems appropriate for a stealth nominee who has not served on the bench or written anything that would give us a strong indication of what sort of justice she’d be.

Maybe she’ll wow the Senate and the public, give us plenty of indication as to her constitutional philosophy, and show mastery of the many areas of the law that will soon command her attention. But I sort of doubt it. Kagan got this far by not tipping her hand; she’s not about to now.

Read Less

The Justices Should Stay Home

Justice Clarence Thomas, appearing at a Florida law school, made some interesting remarks about the Supreme Court’s decision striking down portions of the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance-reform law. The New York Times dutifully reports his jab, “I found it fascinating that the people who were editorializing against it were The New York Times Company and The Washington Post Company. … These are corporations.” And there was more:

“If 10 of you got together and decided to speak, just as a group, you’d say you have First Amendment rights to speak and the First Amendment right of association,” he said. “If you all then formed a partnership to speak, you’d say we still have that First Amendment right to speak and of association.”

“But what if you put yourself in a corporate form?” Justice Thomas asked, suggesting that the answer must be the same.

Asked about his attitude toward the two decisions overruled in Citizens United, he said, “If it’s wrong, the ultimate precedent is the Constitution.”

That’s as compelling and succinct an argument as you will get in defense of constitutional principles and the sanctity of political speech. Most interesting, perhaps, were his remarks on attending the State of the Union:

“I don’t go because it has become so partisan and it’s very uncomfortable for a judge to sit there,” he said, adding that “there’s a lot that you don’t hear on TV — the catcalls, the whooping and hollering and under-the-breath comments.”

“One of the consequences,” he added in an apparent reference to last week’s address, “is now the court becomes part of the conversation, if you want to call it that, in the speeches. It’s just an example of why I don’t go.”

Regardless of how one feels about the Citizens United v. FEC case or Justice Sam Alito’s “not true” retort, it’s hard to disagree with that logic. There is good reason for the justices to stop showing up. This is a partisan affair in which the president lays out a political agenda and, at least in this case, swipes at the other branches of government. Why should judges feel obligated to sit there? Why would they even feel comfortable? And really, there is no purpose to be served by the judges sitting mutely (or not) as the president solicits cheers for health care or incurs boos for a budget freeze. These are justices and not political players, after all, although the line between political apparatchiks and judges is becoming unfortunately blurry these days.

The ABA Canon 4 of judicial ethics (which is the model for many state-bar ethics rules) states: “A judge or candidate for judicial office shall not engage in political or campaign activity that is inconsistent with the independence, integrity, or impartiality of the judiciary.” Well, the State of the Union is not exactly political “activity” in the way that a campaign rally is, but it’s close and becomes more “interactive” each year. If the purpose of that rule is to maintain the divide between judges and politics and to avoid ensnaring judges in partisan brawls, then a good place to start would be for justices to follow Justice Thomas’s guidance. Really, they can watch it on TV.

Justice Clarence Thomas, appearing at a Florida law school, made some interesting remarks about the Supreme Court’s decision striking down portions of the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance-reform law. The New York Times dutifully reports his jab, “I found it fascinating that the people who were editorializing against it were The New York Times Company and The Washington Post Company. … These are corporations.” And there was more:

“If 10 of you got together and decided to speak, just as a group, you’d say you have First Amendment rights to speak and the First Amendment right of association,” he said. “If you all then formed a partnership to speak, you’d say we still have that First Amendment right to speak and of association.”

“But what if you put yourself in a corporate form?” Justice Thomas asked, suggesting that the answer must be the same.

Asked about his attitude toward the two decisions overruled in Citizens United, he said, “If it’s wrong, the ultimate precedent is the Constitution.”

That’s as compelling and succinct an argument as you will get in defense of constitutional principles and the sanctity of political speech. Most interesting, perhaps, were his remarks on attending the State of the Union:

“I don’t go because it has become so partisan and it’s very uncomfortable for a judge to sit there,” he said, adding that “there’s a lot that you don’t hear on TV — the catcalls, the whooping and hollering and under-the-breath comments.”

“One of the consequences,” he added in an apparent reference to last week’s address, “is now the court becomes part of the conversation, if you want to call it that, in the speeches. It’s just an example of why I don’t go.”

Regardless of how one feels about the Citizens United v. FEC case or Justice Sam Alito’s “not true” retort, it’s hard to disagree with that logic. There is good reason for the justices to stop showing up. This is a partisan affair in which the president lays out a political agenda and, at least in this case, swipes at the other branches of government. Why should judges feel obligated to sit there? Why would they even feel comfortable? And really, there is no purpose to be served by the judges sitting mutely (or not) as the president solicits cheers for health care or incurs boos for a budget freeze. These are justices and not political players, after all, although the line between political apparatchiks and judges is becoming unfortunately blurry these days.

The ABA Canon 4 of judicial ethics (which is the model for many state-bar ethics rules) states: “A judge or candidate for judicial office shall not engage in political or campaign activity that is inconsistent with the independence, integrity, or impartiality of the judiciary.” Well, the State of the Union is not exactly political “activity” in the way that a campaign rally is, but it’s close and becomes more “interactive” each year. If the purpose of that rule is to maintain the divide between judges and politics and to avoid ensnaring judges in partisan brawls, then a good place to start would be for justices to follow Justice Thomas’s guidance. Really, they can watch it on TV.

Read Less

Bayh Has His Challenger

Republicans have landed a serious challenger to incumbent Sen. Evan Bayh: former senator Dan Coates. Coates will join a field of lesser known GOP contenders, but I suspect will soon clear the field. In addition to his time in the House and in the U.S. Senate (he filled Dan Quayle’s seat when Quayle became VP), Coates served as ambassador to Germany under George W. Bush. (He also was the “sherpa” for  Supreme Court nominees Harriet Miers and Sam Alito. The former couldn’t be helped, the later needed little assistance, but assigning the task to Coates was some indication of his standing among former colleagues.) Charlie Cook moves the race from “Solid Democratic” to “Leans Democratic” with Coates’s appearance in the race.

It’s not likely that in an ordinary election year Coates would venture back into electoral politics. But this is no ordinary year. Coates no doubt sees what other Republicans (as well as neutral observers) do in an increasingly long list of states: the chance for a solid conservative to take out a Democratic incumbent laboring under the burden of an unpopular ultra-liberal agenda in a state far more moderate than the Beltway Democratic leadership. In the short term, Coates’s candidacy will, one suspects, act to restrain Bayh from adhering too closely to his party’s liberal agenda. Indeed, in recent weeks, as high profile Republicans’ names were tossed about for the race, Bayh has been voicing more vocal opposition to the Obama agenda on everything from health-care reform to terrorism policy.

The problem for Bayh, however, are his votes. He was one of the 60 votes (the Democrats all are the 60th vote, remember) to jam through ObamaCare last Christmas. He also voted for the 2009 stimulus bill, which most voters consider to be a bust. He’ll have more opportunities this year to demonstrate whether he really is a fiscal conservative or just talks like one when viable challengers appear back home.

Republicans have landed a serious challenger to incumbent Sen. Evan Bayh: former senator Dan Coates. Coates will join a field of lesser known GOP contenders, but I suspect will soon clear the field. In addition to his time in the House and in the U.S. Senate (he filled Dan Quayle’s seat when Quayle became VP), Coates served as ambassador to Germany under George W. Bush. (He also was the “sherpa” for  Supreme Court nominees Harriet Miers and Sam Alito. The former couldn’t be helped, the later needed little assistance, but assigning the task to Coates was some indication of his standing among former colleagues.) Charlie Cook moves the race from “Solid Democratic” to “Leans Democratic” with Coates’s appearance in the race.

It’s not likely that in an ordinary election year Coates would venture back into electoral politics. But this is no ordinary year. Coates no doubt sees what other Republicans (as well as neutral observers) do in an increasingly long list of states: the chance for a solid conservative to take out a Democratic incumbent laboring under the burden of an unpopular ultra-liberal agenda in a state far more moderate than the Beltway Democratic leadership. In the short term, Coates’s candidacy will, one suspects, act to restrain Bayh from adhering too closely to his party’s liberal agenda. Indeed, in recent weeks, as high profile Republicans’ names were tossed about for the race, Bayh has been voicing more vocal opposition to the Obama agenda on everything from health-care reform to terrorism policy.

The problem for Bayh, however, are his votes. He was one of the 60 votes (the Democrats all are the 60th vote, remember) to jam through ObamaCare last Christmas. He also voted for the 2009 stimulus bill, which most voters consider to be a bust. He’ll have more opportunities this year to demonstrate whether he really is a fiscal conservative or just talks like one when viable challengers appear back home.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.