When Susan Estrich appeared on Fox the other day to discuss the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, I groaned. But Estrich had a surprise up her sleeve.

Asked if the nomination might give encouragement to those who yearn for a Democratic filibuster, the liberal commentator and former Dukakis campaign honcho had this to say:

“Sure, it does. I know some of my Democratic friends want to have a big fight. I have to say I’m nervous about a big fight on this one. This is a very smart, distinguished, honorable judge who’s written careful opinions. He’s got a half a dozen opinions or so that are problematic, certainly opinions that I disagree with. But i think the democrats have to be really, really careful here because George Bush won the election. Before democrats try to go after this guy I think they’ve got to look carefully at the overall record at this — of this distinguished judge and be careful about the filibuster.”

Alito does have a distinguished record, but I think that the (temporary?) quiet on the Democratic front betokens something else-Democrats know that a big fight on this will make them look as if they are in the pocket of the party’s extreme left.

It may be that the era of vicious confirmation battles, which came into flower when Robert Bork was nominated, is coming to an end. Or then again, given the nature of the extreme left, it might not.