Op-Ed Regarding the Nomination of Samuel Alito

January 6, 2006

It's been widely acknowledged that President Bush had a bad year in 2005. One of the problems America faces as a result is the White House's willingness to make decisions based on what's good for the administration politically rather than what's right for America. The nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. to replace Sandra Day O'Connor is an example of this. The president hopes to make up ground with his right-wing base, instead of appointing someone who will have the confidence of a wide range of Americans. Over the past few months, as we've learned more about Judge Alito's core beliefs and the kind of justice he would be, it has become clear why the Senate should reject his nomination.

Judge Alito's decisions, such as his attacks on the Family and Medical Leave protections and his willingness to excuse the grossest form of sexual harassment in the workplace based on technicalities, have harmed working people. Judge Alito has also attacked Americans' personal liberties by approving the inappropriate strip search of a 10-year-old and defending the construction of all-white juries by unscrupulous prosecutors trying black defendants. A Supreme Court justice must show impartiality and fairness. Judge Alito does not meet that test.

Further complicating Judge Alito's nomination is a lack of credibility that has emerged as he has tried to distance himself from his record and prior statements. He has supported government overreaching into women's personal lives. He has memory lapses regarding membership in the ultraconservative group Concerned Alumni of Princeton, and he failed to recuse himself from a major Vanguard mutual funds case, despite pledging -- under oath during confirmation hearings for his Third Circuit judgeship -- to do so.

On Nov. 3, The Boston Globe reported Judge Alito held $390,000 worth of Vanguard mutual funds during the time he ruled for the company in a civil case before him. These facts are not in dispute. When the chief administrative judge for the circuit reviewed the case on complaint, he vacated Judge Alito's decision and assigned the case to another panel. Judge Alito complained vigorously. He has since failed to offer a credible explanation about why he broke his promise to recuse himself from the case.

Every American should shudder at the prospect of an ethically tone-deaf judge sitting on the one institution in Washington not yet in the pocket of the extremists who comprise the right wing of the Republican Party.

A culture of corruption, arrogance of power and insensitivity to the appearance of conflict of interest has plagued key Republican officeholders for the past five years -- from Republican Senate leader Bill Frist's ownership of stock he falsely claimed was in a blind trust to the repeated evidence that Halliburton, formerly run by Vice President Dick Cheney, benefited from no-bid contracts in Iraq to revelations our government may be illegally spying on Americans and paying journalists for positive stories. House Judiciary Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner has traveled the world, racking up $177,000 worth of lobbyist-funded trips. Rep. Tom DeLay has been indicted for money laundering. Republican super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to three federal criminal charges. Karl Rove still has a security clearance, despite his role in leaking the identity of a CIA agent during wartime. The vice president's chief of staff has been indicted for lying to a grand jury. We need honesty and backbone in Washington, most especially on the court.

I oppose Judge Alito's nomination. I want to be proud of our government again. That can only happen if the rule of law, and the integrity that it requires, are clearly foremost in the consideration of every decision made by the court. There are simply too many writings in Judge Alito's record currying favor with the extreme right that show a willingness to favor government power over individual liberties. How can we believe that he will put aside his personal beliefs and keep an open mind when he has already broken one promise made to the American people? America needs strength now, and America needs a Supreme Court where personal and political considerations do not appear to influence any decision at any time. Judge Alito's nomination must be rejected. And if President Bush could find it in his heart, he needs to nominate someone to the court who will bring us together, not continue to drive us apart.

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Originally posted on The DNC website.



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