Editorial by John Ziegler

My Trip To Barbara Boxer's Alito Press Conference

1/25/2006

It would be difficult to conjure up a more dramatic illustration of just how utterly broken our public dialogue is than what happened at Senator Barbara Boxer's Burbank 'Press Conference' to announce (to the surprise of absolutely no one) that she was voting against the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court.

After all, what could be more basic to a productive and healthy exchange of ideas in a democratic republic than asking questions about the validity of very strong statements that an elected official makes in justifying a decision as important as deciding to vote against a Supreme Court nominee? Apparently, engaging in such activity (at least to Barbara Boxer) is instead roughly akin to urinating on an original copy of the Constitution.

Senator Boxer has continually claimed, in no uncertain terms, that one of the main reasons she opposes Judge Alito (as well as virtually every other conservative judicial nominee, including a black woman from her own state, Janice Rogers Brown) is she believes that he is 'hostile' to the Roe v. Wade abortion decision. Boxer has said time again that Roe could be overturned if Alito is confirmed and that abortion would then be made illegal. But are either of those assertions even plausibly true? And why has no one ever asked Senator Boxer about their veracity or lack there of?

It was with those thoughts in mind, among others, that I decided to attend the Boxer press conference in an effort to get some answers (her office had turned down numerous requests for an interview on my show). Even as low as my expectations were for her responses, she somehow still managed to come in well underneath the bar I had set.

As I waited for Boxer to open the floor to questions (I knew I would have no problem getting first crack because I was seated right in front of her and, while there were lots of people there, almost none of them were reporter types as the TV stations had only bothered to send cameras), I was delighted to hear her say that answering tough questions was what politics was all about and that Alito, like her, should be expected to answer them. Perfect, I thought. She couldn't possibly complain then about being asked the relatively benign and more than reasonable queries I was planning on pursuing. Boy was I wrong.

Sure enough, I asked the first question. I basically asked her if she was aware that that what she was claiming about Roe being overturned (because Alito would only make, at most, four pro-life justices) and abortion becoming illegal (because even if Roe was overturned that it would go back to the states which at least in California would mean that it would always be legal) were untrue, or if she was simply lying to her supporters.

Looking as if she had just swallowed some bad sushi, Boxer chastised me for my 'negative' question and told me that I did not understand that facts. She went on to give me the dubious distinction of being the only person in America who did not think Roe was in jeopardy (meaning I guess that I am the only American capable of counting all the way to five). As I pressed her on naming the five justices who could even theoretically vote to overturn Roe, Boxer absurdly and childishly tried to intimidate me into shutting up by threatening to 'call my boss' for having asking such a 'rude' question. It was the first of two occasions during the press conference where she would make such a threat. Later the senator would joke about the state testing out pesticides on me.

To Boxer's credit (though it was actually pretty dumb for her to even try), she did finally attempt to name the justices who were 'hostile' to Roe. She came up with Scalia and Thomas. When I reminded her that she needed five in order for her abortion hysteria to be remotely justified she finally gave up and called on another member of the press from left-wing Pacifica radio who was all too willing to help bail her out with a softball question about filibustering Alito. Meanwhile, the crowd of Boxer supporters there, as well as Boxer's handlers, began voicing their displeasure with me and questioning whether I should even be allowed to remain at the press conference.

When there was another lull in the proceedings I jumped in again asking the senator about an astonishing comment she made in her prepared remarks. In an effort to distort an opinion that Judge Alito had written in defense of the verdict in a case where a black man was convicted by an all-white jury, Boxer claimed that the man had been tried 'by a jury not of his peers' (which would be in direct violation of the Constitution). To me this begged the question; does Barbara Boxer believe that whites and blacks are not 'peers'? Or, perhaps even worse, does she really think that the law says that you must have someone of your skin color on your jury for it to be legitimate?

When I asked Boxer about her statement she denied having made it. Then she tried to claim that the concept of mandating that blacks have other blacks on their juries was 'well settled law.' When I asked her to cite the law defining 'peers' as a person of the same skin pigmentation she had absolutely no answer (largely because, thankfully, there is none).

After she made her third and final failed attempt at intimidating me (the one where she presumably kidded about testing pesticides on me) I offered to 'forgive' her threats if she allowed me one more question. She denied me and a called on a person who was clearly not affiliated with any kind of media outlet (in contradiction to her own stated rules for the event). This woman began her 'question' with thanking Boxer for all she has done and then asked about gaining Democratic support for a filibuster. Laughably, but with not even a hint of irony, Boxer's first words in response were 'good question'good question.?

A few minutes later (after the event had ended) the woman who asked the 'good question' accosted me with a profanity-laden attack on my role in the press conference. Several other members of the audience for what was really a Boxer pep-rally also angrily confronted me and, while hardly obligated, I was happy to do my best to answer their questions. I did find it odd however that I had stirred such resentment in them. After all, not only was I only doing the intended role of the fourth estate by trying to hold my own public official accountable with reasonable and relevant questioning, but I was also the bearer of the 'good news' that Roe is not currently in jeopardy and that their precious abortion rights are more than safe. Perhaps they were more upset that their 'bitching rights' had been threatened or that their heroine had been revealed as a fraud for having lied in an effort to scare and manipulate them.

Regardless, it was a sad day for democracy when so much heat was generated with so little light. Unfortunately such days are now far more the rule than the exception.


Below is a link to how this column appeared in the Orange County Register:

http://www.ocregister.com/ocregister/opinion/columns/article_981901.php

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