Alito Abortion Letter Appeals to the Right
WASHINGTON, D.C.No wonder right-wingers love him so much. When he was applying to become deputy assistant to Ed Meese, Reagans attorney general in 1985, Judge Samuel A. Alito, now Bushs nominee to the Supreme Court, wrote: [T]he constitution does not protect a right to an abortion.
His job application form, obtained by the Washington Times, was clearly unearthed to mollify any conservatives who still doubt Alito. There are those who suspect George Bush may yet stick them with a centrist trojan horse like Harriet Miers.
"I am and always have been a conservative," the Times quotes him as writing in an attachment to his appointment form. "I am a lifelong registered Republican."
Alito also said, "I am particularly proud of my contributions in recent cases in which the government has argued in the Supreme Court that racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion." At the time Alito was working as a deputy to the solicitor general.The document comes from the Ronald Reagan presidential library.
There is a certain smirking, opportunistic tone to the letter. Alito was trying to get in with Meese just as the attorney general was reaching the zenith of his career in Justice. It was a time of dread among liberal activists, who thought that Meese was the real heartbeat of the Reagan administration and that he was prepared to launch a COINTELPRO against them, especially those thousands who protested the wars in Central America. Reagan claimed those conflicts were launched by the Kremlin, which was hard at work inserting paramilitary legions into Latin America, from whence they would work their way up through Mexico and sneak over the border into the U.S. to foment revolutiuonary causes.
Alitos letter also came a short time before the Iran Contra affair broke into the open, dragging Reagan perilously close to a constitutional confrontation with the Congress.
To put it mildly, Alito comes off as a right-wing yes-man ever so anxious to be brought into Meeses inner circle. Alito rattles off the conservative mantra: devotion to limited government, abhorrence of activist judges, strong support for free enterprise, a yen tough law enforcement, and a love for stiff defense policy.
This document may raise hackles among some Democrats, but the key issue here is whether the Republican right can stomach Alito, who, while politically eschewing support for abortion, judicially has ruled in favor of abortion-rights proponents in three out of four cases during his 15 years as an appellate judge. At no point in the letter does Alito expressly advocate overturning Roe v. Wade.
The letter paints a picture of Alitos intellectual evolution as a conservative. "When I first became interested in government and politics during the 1960s, the greatest influences on my views were the writings of William F. Buckley Jr., the National Review, and Barry Goldwater's 1964 campaign," he wrote. "In college, I developed a deep interest in constitutional law, motivated in large part by disagreement with Warren Court decisions, particularly in the areas of criminal procedure, the Establishment Clause, and reapportionment."
While Democrats have been hesitant in committing themselves to any serious attack on Alito, and especially hesitant to get involved in a filibuster, they nonetheless are leary of what lies just below the judges mild mannered statements.
Combined with his judicial record, Judge Alitos letter underscores our concern that he would vote to turn back the clock on decades of judicial precedent protecting privacy, equal opportunity, religious freedom, and so much more, states Ralph Neas of People for the American Way. And it is further evidence that if Samuel Alito is confirmed to replace Sandra Day OConnor, he will shift the Supreme Court dramatically to the right for decades to come.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.