Interesting observations by Cass Sunstein (Law, Chicago):
A significant bias is built into the system: Those who know a nominee best, or well, are unlikely to be willing to raise questions in public. I have heard from several friends of Judge Alito who do not want to see him on the Supreme Court, but who like and admire him and will not say a public word against him. The reason for their silence is personal loyalty. For lawyers and law professors generally, there is good reason to be circumspect, especially but not only if you know a nominee well: You might well make an enemy, and a lawyer or law professor doesn't much like having an enemy on the Supreme Court. (It's true that many law professors sign petitions against nominees, but the signatories rarely know the nominee personally, and many potential signatories have refrained from signing on the ground that I'm describing.) The same point holds even more strongly for lower court judges, who can easily support, and uneasily criticize, any presidential nominee. Law clerks have the same bias in even stronger form. I clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall, who was, on many issues, far to my "left"; but even now, long after his death, it's not comfortable to criticize my old boss.
All indications, sad to say, are that Judge Alito will be more like Justice Thomas than like Justice Scalia or the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, especially on the crucial issue of our time, namely, the erosion of the constitutional protections from authoritarian rule.
UPDATE: Comments by Paul Craig Roberts are also pertinent here:
The Republican interest in strengthening executive power has its origin in agenda frustration from the constraints placed on Republican administrations by Democratic congresses. The thrust to enlarge the President's powers predates the Bush administration but is being furthered to a dangerous extent during Bush's second term. The confirmation of Bush's nominee, Samuel Alito, a member of the Federalist Society, to the Supreme Court will provide five votes in favor of enlarged presidential powers.
President Bush has used "signing statements" hundreds of times to vitiate the meaning of statutes passed by Congress. In effect, Bush is vetoing the bills he signs into law by asserting unilateral authority as commander-in-chief to bypass or set aside the laws he signs. For example, Bush has asserted that he has the power to ignore the McCain amendment against torture, to ignore the law that requires a warrant to spy on Americans, to ignore the prohibition against indefinite detention without charges or trial, and to ignore the Geneva Conventions to which the US is signatory.
In effect, Bush is asserting the powers that accrued to Hitler in 1933. His Federalist Society apologists and Department of Justice appointees claim that President Bush has the same power to interpret the Constitution as the Supreme Court. An Alito Court is likely to agree with this false claim.
This is the great issue that is before the country.