Like John Roberts, Judge Samuel Alito appears to be a very decent person, a meticulous legal craftsman, and a man of deep conservative conviction. His all-but-certain elevation to the U.S. Supreme Court promises to fulfill the hopes of the Republican Party’s right wing and the fears of many others, especially abortion-rights advocates.
In winning re-election and engineering the emergence of a Republican majority in the Senate, President George W. Bush won the opportunity to turn the Court in an emphatically conservative direction. Although there was little the Democratic minority could have done to forestall Alito’s ascendancy, their floundering performance still astounded. The clumsy attempts of some Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee to impugn Alito’s character and integrity failed spectacularly, resulting in the now iconic image of the judge’s wife bursting into tears and fleeing the hearing room. Republican outrage over Mrs. Alito’s distress and the alleged smear tactics of the Democrats need not be taken too seriously, however. Under the tutelage of President Bush’s political adviser Karl Rove, Republicans have all but perfected the low art of innuendo and character assassination. Still, Alito deserved better, and the Democrats owed it to the American people to show why the nominee’s narrow and troubling judicial philosophy should be rejected.