Senator Bill Frist recently reiterated his oft repeated statement that, "Supreme Court justice nominees deserve an up-or-down vote, and it would be absolutely wrong to deny him that." In the wake of the Harriet Miers nomination these words ring even hollower than ever. It’s understandable that Mr. Frist is distracted by the current Federal inquiries he is under, but not that much time has passed since the same phrase was uttered in regards to counselor Meirs’s nomination—before the Conservative base of the Republican Party threw a tantrum and the nomination was withdrawn.
Are we now supposed to believe that, after having been passed over for Harriet Miers, Judge Alito is now the best the legal community has to offer? Could this have been anymore of a transparent political move tendered for the benefit of a small segment of American instead of the Nation as a whole? Some would point to the disheartening fact that President Bush declined to follow even his wife’s advice to replace Justice O’Connor with another women, or to follow in the footsteps of President Lyndon Johnson's landmark nomination of Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court in 1967 with the nomination of what could have been the first Hispanic appointed to the Court, yet the most compelling reason to fight Alito’s nomination is his record.
A prospect for the highest court in the land must be a person of honesty and integrity. Does a person possessing such qualities renege on a promise to recuse himself from cases where he had a personal interest? Judge Alito pledged to the U.S. Senate during hearings for his position on 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals that he would do just that if the situation called for it, yet on numerous occasions Alito has failed to live up to his word. In 1995, despite an unequivocal written response in the affirmative to questions from the US Senate just five year previous, Bush’s nominee failed to remove himself from a case involving his sister Rosemary Alito’s employer, law firm McCarter & English. In addition he failed to recuse himself from a 2002 case involving Smith Barney, a brokerage firm that managed his six-figure personal investment.
Instead of offering an honest explanation for these actions, a succession of disingenuous rationales has been offered to the public. First it was all because of a computer glitch, then, a decade after the fact, his pledge was suddenly to restrictive. Just as disturbing is Judge Alito’s submission on a job application for a position in the Reagan administration, in which he pointed to his membership in an organization, called the Concerned Alumni of Princeton as evidence of his "philosophical commitment" toward Reagan administration policy. During his time at Princeton and when he was still promoting his membership over a decade later, this group made its name fighting integration of women and minorities on campus.
While his job application clearly points out his membership in this organization, he has now reversed course -- his response to questions from Senators last month was, "I have no recollection of being a member or attending meetings." The sudden memory loss, reminiscent of Chief Justice John Roberts memory lapse concerning his membership in The Federalist society, is understandable when you consider that, “ In 1975, an alumni panel that included Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the current Republican leader and a 1974 Princeton graduate, concluded that Concerned Alumni had "presented a distorted, narrow and hostile view of the university that cannot help but have misinformed and even alarmed many alumni" and "undoubtedly generated adverse national publicity."
The lifetime appointment of a Supreme Court Justice has significant ramification for the future of our country, and a person seeking a lifetime appointment must be upfront and honest with the Senate – as well as the American people. Americans deserve a Supreme Court Justice who doesn't need a computer to tell the difference between right and wrong. It’s time for the White House to treat this process with the respect it deserves, and for Bill Frist to back off his posturing, blustering, and unproductive threats to subvert said process by using the “nuclear option.”
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