Dana Milbank of the Washington Post files a column today about Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s first day on the bench, which was yesterday. Instead of learning more about the intricacies of the cases themselves, Milbank decides it is more newsworthy to focus on Alito’s mannerisms. The piece is extremely condescending, to say the least. Here’s a sample:
– It was Samuel Alito’s first day of school yesterday, and the new Supreme Court justice demonstrated himself to be a precocious, if sometimes too enthusiastic, pupil.&rdquo
– In his first day on the bench, Alito laughed obligingly at Justice Antonin Scalia’s joke about river discharge. He stroked his chin thoughtfully and rocked in his chair, just as the more senior justices do.&rdquo
– He (Alito) tried to talk at the same time as 85-year-old Justice John Paul Stevens, then quickly backed down.&rdquo
– He forgot the rules of seniority and stepped in front of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; the 72-year-old Clinton appointee was uninjured.&rdquo
And Milbank didn’t stop there. He continued with this second-by-second analysis of Alito’s movements.
As oral arguments started, Alito adopted a studious frown as the lawyer for a shopping-mall developer explained why the Clean Water Act didn’t apply to him. Within seconds, Scalia interrupted to declare his agreement with the builder. Ginsburg broke in to make clear her opposition. Then, without waiting for the other six, Alito jumped in.
“Does it make sense,” he wondered, that “a tributary that leads into navigable water is not necessarily covered?” Souter quickly agreed with Alito’s line of questioning, suggesting “evil polluters” were trying to evade the law.
It might have been an anxious moment for the new justice’s supporters. Was Alito, so recently championed by the right wing, siding with Ginsburg and Souter against Scalia? Or was he merely playing the devil’s advocate, as justices often do? Alito, resting his face in his left hand, his pinky on his lips, gave no further clues. For the next hour, he sat silently while his colleagues debated fiercely.
Stevens called an argument made by the property owners “sort of foolish.” Alito reached for his silver coffee mug. Scalia ridiculed the government argument that land “becomes water of the United States because there are puddles on it.” Alito scratched his head.
Alito found his voice in the second hearing, a less important dispute about discharge from dams. He shared a private joke with Ginsburg, apparently at the expense of a clearly nervous petitioner. After Kennedy and Chief Justice John Roberts asked questions, Alito piped up with a question — but quickly silenced himself when he discovered Stevens had the floor. He sipped from his mug, rested chin in hand, and bided his time — finally seizing the floor after a Breyer soliloquy.
Most people are interested in the Supreme Court for the decisions that are made regarding the specific cases that are brought before the judicial branch. Not Dana Milbank. He’s got one thing on his mind. It’s Sam Alito. How Sam looks. What Sam says. How Sam sits. How Sam stands.
What’s next Dana? A critique of Alito’s hygienic practices? Will we read about an errant nose hair or will it be a column focusing on the varied shapes of lint clinging to the Justice’s robe?
Nice work, Milbank. Now go get a life.