Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Next Question

If you were holding out hope that Judge Samuel Alito was somehow inclined to support a woman’s right to choose whether or not her uterus is under the control of the government, this little bit of news should put that hope to rest.

In a 1985 job application, Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. expressed his strong belief that the Constitution does not protect abortion and stated his opposition to “racial and ethnic quotas.”

Alito, President Bush’s nominee to replace Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court, made the statements in an application for a political appointment to a top Justice Department post in the Reagan administration. Then an assistant to the solicitor general in the administration, he was applying to be deputy assistant attorney general, a job he eventually obtained two years later.

Asked on the application form to explain his “philosophical commitment to the policies of this administration,” Alito wrote on an attached sheet, “I am and always have been a conservative and an adherent to the same philosophical views that I believe are central to this Administration.”

It was “an honor and a source of personal satisfaction” to help advance Reagan administration legal positions “in which I personally believe very strongly,” Alito wrote. “I am particularly proud of my contributions in recent cases in which the government has argued in the Supreme Court that racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion.”


In confirmation hearings in September, Bush’s nominee for chief justice, John G. Roberts Jr., deflected questions about his own work in the Reagan Justice Department by saying he was merely representing the views of his client — the U.S. government — in memos he wrote.

By contrast, the 1985 job application puts Alito on record as saying the legal positions he promoted reflected his own strongly held personal views.

He summarized his political views by saying, “I believe very strongly in limited government, federalism, free enterprise, the supremacy of the elected branches of government, the need for a strong defense and effective law enforcement, and the legitimacy of a government role in protecting traditional values.”

He added, “In the field of law, I disagree strenuously with the usurpation by the judiciary of decisionmaking authority that should be exercised by the branches of government responsible to the electorate.”

Anyone who harbored any hope that Bush would appoint a judge who was not fully on board with him and the right wing on their agenda is dillusional, just as they would be if they thought Bush would appoint Maya Angelou as the Poet Laureate.

Why should anyone think that Alito would see Roe v. Wade as “settled law”? Just because he disagrees with the “usurpation by the judiciary of decisionmaking” doesn’t mean he won’t do whatever is necessary to reverse what he sees as a bad ruling. That, in the eyes of the conservatives, is not usurpation but corrective. After all, the conservatives point to Brown v. Board of Education as corrective to Plessy v. Ferguson (ignoring the fact that they screamed about the ruling in 1954). There are always ways of rationalizing something when it works in your favor, and the conservatives are masters at it.

The fact that this bit of news has come to light means that asking Judge Alito about Roe v. Wade is now — to coin a phrase — fair game for the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. I don’t think he can dodge this question. And why should he? It’s not like it’s a big secret. It never was.

(HT to Steve Bates at The Yellow Doggerel Democrat.)