It’s a simple question: Should Samuel Alito be confirmed for a seat on the United States Supreme Court?
The answer, however, is a little more complicated.
It depends on what kind of America you want to live in.
Mr. Alito would lead us further down the trail blazed by Bush & Co. - into a land of increasingly diminished individual freedom, where Big Business is always right and a criminal president is exempt from judicial oversight. A New York Times editorial (1/12/06) offers a concise summary of the confirmation hearings: "In three days of testimony, [Alito] has given the American people reasons to be worried - and senators reasons to oppose his nomination…Time and again, as a lawyer and a judge, [Alito] has taken the side of big corporations against the ‘little guy,’ supported employers against employees, and routinely rejected the claims of women, racial minorities and the disabled…"
Let’s start with Roe v Wade.
During the hearings Mr. Alito danced around a declarative statement of opposition, but still made it abundantly clear that he will rule against any abortion rights in future cases that come before the court.
Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY): "As you know I questioned him pretty hard on Roe v. Wade. I came to a conclusion that in all likelihood he would vote to overturn."
A group called Republican Majority for Choice issued a statement opposing Alito’s nomination: "[W]e have closely monitored the confirmation hearings with the hope that Judge Alito would offer some clarifying statements that would allay our concerns about his record. Instead, he side-stepped the issue of whether or not the right to privacy in the Constitution extends to reproductive choice. He avoided answering whether Roe was settled law…Without such assurances, we can only calculate his judicial philosophy on reproductive rights through the prism of his past actions and statements."
The National Association of Women Lawyers came to the same conclusion: "Judge Alito is not qualified to serve on the Court from the perspective of laws and decisions regarding women's rights or that have a special impact on women…" They came to this conclusion as a "result of [our] evaluation of Judge Alito's writings, including his judicial record."
Mr. Alito spent part of his time before the Senate committee lauding Robert Bork, a Ronald Reagan Supreme Court nominee rejected as too extreme. As the Times editorial points out, "Judge Alito's extraordinary praise of Judge Bork is unsettling, given that Judge Bork's radical legal views included rejecting the Supreme Court's entire line of privacy cases, even its 1965 ruling striking down a state law banning sales of contraceptives." One can only imagine an America as envisioned by the likes of Bork and Alito, a country where pregnancy not only can’t be terminated - it can’t even be prevented.
If you belive our government has the right to prohibit and punish those seeking to terminate a pregnancy, Mr. Alito is certainly your man for the job. It would be prudent, however, to keep in mind that with Samuel Alito you are getting far more than criminalized abortion.
Mr. Alito would offer a blank check to George W. Bush, under the principle of the "unitary executive." As described by Sydney Blumenthal in The Guardian (1/12/06), this concept holds "that the president, as commander-in-chief, is sole judge of the law, unbound by hindrances such as the Geneva conventions, and has inherent authority to subordinate independent government agencies to his fiat. This is the cornerstone of the Bush legal doctrine…The ‘unitary executive’ is nothing less than ‘gospel’ declared the federal judge Samuel Alito in 2000… Alito’s belief was perhaps the paramount credential for his nomination by Bush to the Supreme Court."
This concept - of an imperial presidency, free to operate beyond any legal restraints or accountability - violates fundamental American beliefs. It spits in the face of Constitutional separation of powers.
And, under Samuel Alito, it could become the law of the land.
Need more? Mr. Blumenthal offers a vivid picture of Mr. Alito’s values: "In the Reagan justice department, [Alito] argued that the federal government had no responsibility for the ‘health, safety and welfare’ of Americans…that the executive should be immune from liability for illegal domestic wiretapping…that police had a right to kill an unarmed 15-year-old accused of stealing $10…and that it should be legal to fire, and exclude from federal funded programs, people with AIDS, because of ‘fear of contagion…reasonable or not.’"
Mr. Alito’s dark vision of America perfectly complements that of the current administration. In his view, Bush and Cheney are free to engage in warrantless wiretaps, to detain American citizens without due process, to sanction torture of helpless suspects.
Is this the America you want to live in?