Conrad: I know Alito's no ideologue because he told me so

The North Dakota Democrat says he'll vote in favor of the nominee.

Published January 30, 2006 8:54PM (EST)

A fourth Democratic senator has announced that he'll vote for Samuel Alito and against an attempt to filibuster his nomination. North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad says he'll take Alito at his word that he's not an ideologue, that he'll judge each case on its merits and that he believes in the system of checks and balances set forth in the U.S. Constitution.

In other news, Conrad announced today that practice makes perfect, that a watched pot never boils and that the sun will come up tomorrow.

That last part is a joke, but Conrad's explanation for his Alito vote isn't -- at least not to him. There are reasons to vote for Samuel Alito, especially if you're a red-state Democrat up for reelection in 2006. But the reasons Conrad has offered in support of his Alito vote aren't reasons; they're platitudes, and they're the same kind of platitudes we once heard from nominees named Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia.

In a statement announcing his support for Alito, Conrad makes it sound as if he had some kind of western showdown with the nominee. Conrad stared him down, asked him the hard questions and pried the truth right out of him. "Judge Alito looked me in the eye and told me that he will not conduct himself based on an ideological agenda," Conrad says. "He promised me that he would judge each case based on its merits and protect and defend the liberties set out in the Constitution. And finally, Judge Alito has assured me that the president is bound by the statutes passed by Congress and that he supports the system of checks and balances enshrined in the Constitution."

Just as we were losing faith in the Democrats, Conrad has got us feeling good again. If there's ever a judicial nominee who declares himself an ideologue, who says that he'll decide cases regardless of their merits and announces that he doesn't believe in checks and balances, well, our man Conrad will be sure to vote him down.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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