Bush veers right in second go at Supreme Court nominee
U.S. President George W. Bush nominated conservative judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court on Monday in a move likely to set off a partisan battle with Democrats as he tries to right his struggling presidency."Scalito"?? That can't be good.
Bush acted quickly to find a nominee to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor for the lifetime appointment on the highest U.S. court, after loyalist Harriet Miers withdrew from consideration on Thursday under fierce attack from conservatives within Bush's Republican Party who questioned her credentials.
Bush, appearing with Alito in the White House, emphasized Alito's lengthy resume, after Miers was attacked for lacking much of a background.
Alito is a former Justice Department official and federal prosecutor and has been an appeals court judge for 15 years. He has argued a dozen Supreme Court cases.
Bush said Alito has "shown a mastery of the law, a deep commitment of justice, and he is a man of enormous character."
"I'm confident that the United States Senate will be impressed by Judge Alito's distinguished record, his measured judicial temperament, and his tremendous personal integrity," he said.
Democrats vowed to give careful scrutiny to Alito, who is considered a conservative in the mold of Justice Antonin Scalia, who they frequently criticize as too far to the right.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid wondered whether Alito was "too radical for the American people."
"I look forward to meeting Judge Alito and learning why those who want to pack the court with judicial activists are so much more enthusiastic about him than they were about Harriet Miers," Reid said.
STOP 'HEMORRHAGING OF SUPPORT'
Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy called Alito a choice made from weakness and said Bush had picked a nominee "whom he hopes will stop the massive hemorrhaging of support on his right wing."
"Alito could very well fundamentally alter the balance of the court and push it dangerously to the right, placing at risk decades of American progress in safeguarding our fundamental rights and freedoms," Kennedy said.
Republicans quickly rallied behind the beleaguered president, who is coming off one of the toughest weeks of his time in office after the withdrawal of Miers and the indictment by a federal grand jury of Lewis Libby, a top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney.
"With this selection, the president has chosen a proven nominee that meets the highest standards of excellence," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican.
Conservative activist Manuel Miranda, who helped lead the charge from the right against Miers, voiced strong support of Alito.
In a reference to the Miers pick, Miranda said that with Alito, Bush "has ended the corrupting practice of stealth nominations, a presidential act of statecraft for which he will be long remembered."
Alito, 55, is sometimes given the nickname "Scalito" -- a comparison to Scalia, who shares his Italian heritage as well as his reputation for conservatism and a strong intellect. He is a judge on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.