Judge Alito, like a bar of soap
January 10, 2006
A moment the media missed
Alito's open-minded platitudes
Judge Alito poured out the platitudes and came off sounding like a fair-minded nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. The San Francisco Chronicle quoted Samuel Alito as saying "there is nothing that is more important for our Republic than the rule of law." Other newspapers gave similar reports. Alito promised to keep an "open mind," the media told us.
How did people expect Alito to present himself? Like Pat Robertson in his pulpit, calling for assassinations? Apparently. So when Alito said that he believed in the "rule of law", and everyone was caught off guard. With a clutch of clever clichés he was able to cast off the rightwing image and emerge in the public mind as a reasonable person.
As the SF Chronicle put it in a subtitle: "Alito gets right to the point in strategy to head off Dems. He declares that rule of law is the Republic's paramount concern."
But did anyone notice that Judge Samuel Alito was mouthing platitudes and revealing nothing?
Yes, it certainly was noticed, and it did come out in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings. There was a prickly moment that the media missed. The following is from the transcript of Wednesday, January 11th:
SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Judge Alito, you testified yesterday that you’d keep an open mind. Isn’t that right?
JUDGE SAMUEL ALITO: I did and I do.
SCHUMER: Now are you aware of any nominee in the history of the republic who has come before the Senate and testified he’d keep a closed mind?
ALITO: I’m not aware of that. But I can only speak for myself.
SCHUMER: Of course.
ALITO: I will keep an open mind on all issues.
SCHUMER: You also testified yesterday that no one, not even the president, is above the law. Right?
ALITO: That’s certainly true.
SCHUMER: Yes. And are you aware of any nominee in the history of this republic, of whatever political philosophy, judicial philosophy or denomination, who has come before the Senate -- party denomination -- and testified that, actually, there are a few people who are above the law?
ALITO: I’m not aware of a nominee like that, Senator.
SCHUMER: Me either. And you also testified that the court should have respect for the Congress. Isn’t that right?
SCHUMER: Know of any nominees who came before the Senate and said, The heck with you guys; I don’t have any respect for the Congress ?
ALITO: Senator, I can only speak for myself and those are true expressions of what I think.
SCHUMER: I know that. But all I want to say is -- and I don’t doubt your sincerity in saying them -- but this morning’s newspapers were filled with headlines to the effect you would keep an open mind. I don’t find that really to be news, nor do I find it very helpful in figuring out what kind of justice you would be. My friends on the other side of the aisle have repeatedly said you’ve answered over 200 questions. Now it’s probably 300. But a response is not an answer. And you’ve responded to more than 300 questions but, in all due respect, you haven’t answered enough of them. And so, again, I think we ought to make clear that, at least to many of us here, we haven’t gotten the answers to questions, yes or no, on some important issues.
--From transcripts of the Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Judge Samuel Alito's Nomination to the Supreme Court.
By the time Senator Chuck Schumer's round of questioning was over, Judge Alito's voice was quivering with anger. No playwright could've written the scene better. But remarkably enough, the media apparently missed it.