Incredibly Un-Credible Alito
In yesterday's Senate hearings, Judge Samuel Alito once again proved he will say anything to get hired. Alito's testimony was, according to Sen. Patrick Leahy (R-VT), " vague, inconsistent, and at times, contradictory...to what his record shows." By dodging questions, making excuses, and feigning ignorance in response to senators' questions, Alito presented himself as an untrustworthy Supreme Court nominee, unwilling to answer tough questions with truthful, forthright answers. "It's what we call in law school the slippery slope and if you start answering the easy questions you are going to be sliding down the ski run into the hard questions, and that's what I'm not so happy to do," said Alito to Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), summing up his own strategy for the day. But while Alito hoped not to reveal any of his substantive views yesterday, he ended up revealing his lack of credibility. As Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) noted, "'Credibility' has rarely been an issue for Supreme Court nominees, but it is clearly a major issue for Alito." (For more on Alito, check out AlitosAmerica.org)
NO CREDIBILITY ON IMMUNITY FOR ILLEGAL WIRETAPS: ALITO'S CLAIM ( 1/10/06): "We were representing former Attorney General Mitchell in his individual capacity. He was being sued for damages. And we were, in a sense, acting his -- as his private attorney. And this was an argument that he wanted to make." FACT: In 1984, U.S. Attorney General John Mitchell was being sued for illegally wiretapping Vietnam war protestors. Alito's statement yesterday indicates that he pushed for absolute immunity only because that is what his "client" wanted. But Alito personally agreed with Mitchell that the U.S. Attorney General should have immunity from civil lawsuits and in a memo that same year, wrote, " I do not question that the Attorney General should have this immunity, but for tactical reasons I would not raise the issue here." Alito recommended that the Justice Department pursue a long-term strategy to secure immunity in the courts: "There are strong reasons to believe that our chances of success will be greater in future cases…our chances of persuading the Court to accept an absolute immunity argument would probably be improved in a case involving a less controversial official and a less controversial era."
NO CREDIBILITY ON EXECUTIVE POWER: ALITO'S CLAIM (1/10/06): "The issue of, to my mind, the concept of the unitary executive, does not have to do with the scope of executive power." FACT: In a 2000 speech to the right-wing Federalist Society, Alito had a much more " expansive view" of the executive branch's scope: "The president has not just some executive powers, but the executive power -- the whole thing. ... I thought then, and I still think, that this theory best captures the meaning of the Constitution's text and structure." The scope of the unitary executive was therefore complete executive power for the president. Throughout Alito's career, he has demonstrated a "pattern of elevating the presidency above the other branches of government." While in the Reagan administration, Alito urged the President to issue more " signing statements," which lay out the President's interpretation of the law and " shift courts' focus away from 'legislative intent.'" President Bush recently took Alito's 1986 advice and used a signing statement to bypass restrictions on detainee torture.
NO CREDIBILITY ON ABORTION: ALITO'S CLAIM ( 1/10/06): "I did not advocate in the  memo that an argument be made that Roe be overruled." FACT: In 1985, Alito wrote to the Solicitor General that the current cases before the Supreme Court afforded the "opportunity to advance the goals of overruling Roe v. Wade and, in the meantime, of mitigating its effects." He added, "We should file a brief [in which] we should make clear that we disagree with Roe v. Wade and would welcome the opportunity to brief the issue of whether, and if so to what extent, that decision should be overruled."
NO CREDIBILITY ON CONCERNED ALUMNI OF PRINCETON: ALITO'S CLAIM ( 1/10/06): "Well, Senator, I have wracked my memory about this issue, and I really have no specific recollection of that organization. ... I have tried to think of what might have caused me to sign up for membership, and if I did, it must have been around that time. And the issue that had rankled me about Princeton for some time was the issue of ROTC. I was in ROTC when I was at Princeton and the unit was expelled from the campus, and I thought that was very wrong." FACT: Alito was a member of the Concerned Alumni of Princeton, "a far-right organization funded by conservative alumni committed to turning back the clock on coeducation at the University," for its entire 14-year existence. Alito touted his membership in the group in his 1985 Justice Department job application, where he also bragged about his work arguing that "racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed." Diane Weeks, a former colleague of Alito's when he was U.S. Attorney General for New Jersey and a Princeton alumna said, "I once joked to him [Alito] that he must be very disappointed that women were admitted to Princeton and he just didn't have a response." Additionally, the ROTC was likely not Alito's only reason for joining the group; he did not disavow his membership when Princeton brought back the ROTC in September 1972. People For the American Way points out that a newspaper article on the genesis of Concerned Alumni mentions ROTC only in passing, instead focusing on the campus Third World Center, Women's Studies, and a gay student organization.
NO CREDIBILITY ON CONFLICTS OF INTEREST: ALITO'S CLAIM ( 1/10/06): "And it's not because I violated any ethical standard, but it's because when this case first came before me, I did not focus on the issue of recusal." FACT: In his confirmation hearings to become a federal judge, Alito made explicit pledges to the U.S. Senate that he would recuse himself from cases involving firms in which he had personal interests. In 2002, he broke his word and ruled on a case involving the investment firm Vanguard, despite owning between $390,000 to $975,000 in Vanguard shares at the time. Alito and the White House have now offered three different explanations for his actions. The Bush administration initially blamed the oversight on a " computer glitch." When that excuse was dismissed, Alito said the recusal promise applied to only his " initial service" as a judge and even tried dismissing his own promise, saying he had been " unduly restrictive" on himself. Alito is now trying to convince the Senate that it was merely an oversight on his part.
NO CREDIBILITY ON ROBERT BORK: ALITO'S CLAIM ( 1/10/06): "Senator, when I made that statement [praising Robert Bork] in 1988 I was an appointee in the Reagan administration and Judge Bork had been a nominee of the administration and I had been a supporter of the nomination. I do not think the statement goes beyond that. There are issues...on which I disagree with him." FACT: In 1988, Alito was ready to hug Robert Bork -- President Reagan's failed 1987 radical right-wing nominee to the Supreme Court -- not run away from him. In an interview with a New Jersey television program, Alito said of Bork, "I think he was one of the most outstanding nominees of this century. ... He is a man of unequalled intellectual ability, understanding of constitutional history, someone who had thought deeply throughout his entire life about constitutional issues and about the Supreme Court and the role that it ought to play in American society."