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Landrieus' decisions take political risks

The end of January proved interesting for the Landrieu clan as its two major political figures, Sen. Mary Landrieu and little brother Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, took some political gambles.

Sen. Landrieu finally made her up mind and cast a vote against the confirmation of Associate Justice Samuel Alito for the Supreme Court. That’s all we really can conclude from this because in her remarks concerning her vote (which have yet to appear on her Senate website) constituted a bizarre, if not totally at odds with reality, explanation:

I want my vote against confirmation to help send a signal to all who care that the Supreme Court nomination process has become far too political and far too removed from the original purposes set forth by the framers of the Constitution. It is time for all of us, Republicans and Democrats, of every possible philosophical persuasion, to stand up against a process that so poorly serves the people of the states we represent in this great body.

It’s hard to square Landrieu’s stated desire to “send a signal” against a process that has become “far too political” when in fact her vote was purely political itself. Alito was about as nonpolitical of a nominee as one could imagine: all he promised was to decide cases within the parameters of the Constitution using its text and what it actually said. She voted against him entirely for political reasons, because he did support her goal to implement her agenda by judicial fiat since she could not get it implemented through the ballot box. Therefore, it’s doubly astounding that she could claim the process now is “far too removed from the original purposes set forth by the [F]ramers” because Alito himself epitomizes the kind of judge that would follow the original intent of the Framers.

And what was so deviant from the intent of the Framers, so wrong about the process that she claims “poorly serves the people of the states we represent?” They had a vote and he was confirmed, all according to the Constitution. What deviance or disservice is there? Or even more to the point, with this kind of rationale, can Landrieu even hold a coherent thought in her head?

Her brother, by contrast, did a much better job using logic in his unannounced decision to run for mayor of New Orleans. Certainly it pales in comparison to the Governor’s Mansion, and he was well-placed to go after that in 2007.

But such a run would have gone against sitting Democrat Gov. Kathleen Blanco who will quixotically seek reelection and against either, both, or even more than, two powerful Republicans (Sen. David Vitter and/or Rep. Bobby Jindal). His dividing the party and with heavyweight partisanship opposition facing hin in a gubernatorial run, mayor is smaller potatoes but more winnable, with a crossover appeal that makes Lt. Gov. Landrieu the early favorite. He just has to hope he can win and the job he does in a difficult environment will not detract from any higher ambitions he might have.

His sister’s vote probably will hurt her more than help, but it could end up being the better option. She benefits from it for a reelection run in 2008 only if the GOP comes up with a fairly conservative candidate because any voters on the right she could have picked off from a moderate Republican by herself appearing more moderate with a vote for confirmation will be held firmly by a conservative challenger. This vote under this scenario helps her activate the kook base of her party with little or no penalty. However, a moderate challenger claiming he would have supported Alito makes her appear further to the left (and even moreso when paired at the top of the ticket with the likely Democrat presidential nominee), which in Louisiana is where the votes to win aren’t.

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