The Senators and Mr. Vague

Verbatim: A sampler of meaningless statements by Samuel Alito

But if I had been actively involved in the organization in any way, if I had attended meetings, or been actively involved in any way, I would certainly remember that, and I don't.

And I have tried to think of what might have caused me to sign up for membership. And if I did, it must have been around that time.

And the issue that had rankled me about Princeton for some time was the issue of ROTC. I was in ROTC when I was at Princeton, and the unit was expelled from the campus, and I thought that was very wrong. I had a lot of friends who were against the war in Vietnam, and I respected their opinions, but I didn't think that it was right to oppose the military for that reason.

And the issue -- although the Army unit was eventually brought back, the Navy and the Air Force units did not come back, and the issue kept coming up. And there were people who were strongly opposed to having any unit on campus. And the attitude seemed to be that the military was the bad institution, and that Princeton was too good for the military, and that Princeton would somehow be sullied if people in uniform were walking around the campus, that the courses didn't merit getting credit, that the instructors shouldn't be viewed as part of the faculty.

And that was the issue that bothered me about that.

Well, Senator, as you said, from what I now know about the group, it seemed to be dedicated to the idea of bringing back the Princeton that existed at a prior point in time. And as you said, somebody from my background would not have been comfortable in an institution like that, and that certainly was not any part of my thinking in whatever I did in relation to this group.

6. Alito again on Concerned Alumni of Princeton, day three, with Senator Richard J. Durbin:

I've said what I can say about what I can recall about this group, Senator, which is virtually nothing.

I put it down on the '85 form as a group in which I was a member. I didn't say I was anything more than a member. And since I put it down, I'm sure that I was a member at the time.

But I'm also sure -- and I have wracked my memory on this, that if I had participated in the group in any active way, if I had attended meetings or done anything else substantial in connection with this group, I would remember it. And if I had repeated -- if I had renewed my membership, for example, over a period of years, I'm sure I would remember that.

So that's the best I can reconstruct as to what happened with this group.

I mentioned in wracking my memory about this, I said, "What would it have been, what could it have been about the administration of Princeton that would have caused me to sign up to be a member of this group around the time of this application?" And I don't have a specific recollection, but I do know that the issue of ROTC has bothered me for a long period of time. The expulsion during the time of the units, at the time when I was a student there, struck me as a very bad thing for Princeton to do.

I did not join this group, I'm quite confident, because of any attitude toward women or minorities.

What has bothered me about -- what bothered me about the Princeton administration over a period of time was the treatment of ROTC. And after the unit was brought back, I know there's been a continuing controversy over a period of years about whether it would be kept on campus, whether in any way this was demeaning to the university to have an ROTC unit on campus, whether students who were enrolled in ROTC could receive credit for the courses, whether the ROTC instructors could be considered in any way a part of the faculty.

All of this bothered me, and it is my recollection that it continued over a period of time.

7. Alito, in response to Senator Orrin Hatch's query about Alito's "judicial philosophy":

I think that my philosophy of the way I approached issues is to try to make sure that I get right what I decide. And that counsels in favor of not trying to do too much, not trying to decide questions that are too broad, not trying to decide questions that don't have to be decided, and not going to broader grounds for a decision when a narrower ground is available.

8. Alito, in response to Senator Herbert Kohl's question about the ideal judicial view of the law and of the Constitution:

I think that the Constitution contains both some very specific provisions, and there the job of understanding what the provision means and applying it to new factual situations that come up is relatively easy.

The Constitution sets age limits, for example, for people who want to hold various federal offices and there can't be much debate about what that means or how it applies.

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