December 12, 2005
The Alito Campaign
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Is Judge Samuel Alito stumbling on the road
to confirmation for the Supreme Court, instead of following Chief
Justice John Roberts' smooth path to Senate approval? Not really,
but pro-and-con Alito campaigns are hitting full stride in the
holiday season prior to Senate hearings beginning Jan. 9. The
process becomes a debate over who this judicial nominee really
that Alito's nomination may be in trouble is being created by
left-wing interest groups and their Senate allies, who project
what the judge's defenders call the "jack-booted thug theme."
Alito's past decisions are used to depict him supporting strip
searches of little girls and legalization of machine guns. In
a pre-emptive strike against more such attacks, his conservative
backers this week have dubbed this "law enforcement week,"
to paint Alito as the scourge of crime.
this has much to do with how Alito actually would conduct himself
as a justice, but Supreme Court confirmations have taken on the
characteristics of American elections. In truth, the Alito campaign
is one part of a relentless, sustained struggle for control of
the Supreme Court extending far into the future. Nan Aron of the
Alliance for Justice in 2004 declared she will do "whatever
it takes" to keep conservatives off the Supreme Court. This
year, when Aron was asked what she would do to stop Alito, she
replied, "You name it, we'll do it."
that Sam Alito has been scrutinized by liberals and found wanting
is an illusion. Anybody that President Bush would select to the
high court would be opposed by Aron and her collaborators, Ralph
Neas of People for the American Way and Wade Henderson of the
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. Even Attorney General Alberto
Gonzales, the possible Bush nominee least acceptable to conservatives,
would be opposed by these three horsemen of the Left.
was just as unacceptable to them as Alito is, but the activists
were unable to find critical mass for the future chief justice
because his paper trail was so skimpy. In contrast, in two pieces
of paper prepared 20 years ago by Alito (one of them a job application),
he described himself as anti-abortion. That was enough to mobilize
the senators who most dependably follow the special interest groups:
Charles Schumer of New York, Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts
and Barbara Boxer of California.
is not an issue that will broaden the anti-Alito bloc beyond the
22 hard-core senators who voted against Roberts. Accordingly,
Alito's 15 years as an appellate judge have been mined to yield
controversial decisions that could not be found in Roberts' two
years on the District of Columbia circuit court, which dealt largely
with administrative cases. Alito's dissents on criminal-search
and gun-control cases are cited to turn him into a "jack-booted
thug." This characterization might seem more credible for
Alito, the son of an Italian immigrant, than for Roberts, whose
father was a corporate executive.
strategists reply with "law enforcement week," emphasizing
his endorsement by the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). To assail
Alito's decisions, said FOP President Chuck Canterbury, is "like
attacking a police officer for doing his job and making arrests."
ad distributed by the conservative Judicial Confirmation Network
to over 10 million users this week will fire back on critics of
Alito's dissent validating the search of the young daughter of
a suspected drug dealer. It contended that "left-wing extremists
opposing" Alito "may have found new allies -- drug dealers
who hide drugs on children." The ad is also sent on the Internet
to Grassfire.org, a conservative activist group with 1.5 million
members that produced 700,000 signatures in support of an amendment
opposing homosexual marriages.
of this effort is to keep Alito's opposition in the Senate below
the 41 votes needed to defeat a cloture motion stopping a filibuster.
But even if his foes fall just short of that level, the hope on
the left is that such a showing will dissuade Bush from naming
another Roberts or Alito to the next vacancy on the court. The
Senate's confirmation process has been degraded into an endless
2005 Creators Syndicate