News & Politics

Alito Abortion Letter Appeals to the Right

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WASHINGTON, D.C.—No wonder right-wingers love him so much. When he was applying to become deputy
assistant to Ed Meese, Reagan’s attorney general in
1985, Judge Samuel A. Alito, now Bush’s 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.

Alito’s 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 Meese’s 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 Alito’s 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
judge’s mild mannered statements.

“Combined with his
judicial record, Judge Alito’s 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 O’Connor, he will shift the Supreme
Court dramatically to the right for decades to come.”

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