Column: Alito and me

By Chuck Prochaska

When I first heard the news of Harriet Miers’ withdrawal of her nomination to the Supreme Court, my pulse began to race, as this could only mean the President had changed his mind and was going to nominate me to fill the vacancy. As long as he was going for a judge with no experience, he might as well get some ideological bang for his buck, right?

But sadly, minutes turned to hours, and hours turned into sleepless nights waiting for that 202 area code to appear on my caller ID. Soon, Judge Sam Alito of the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals was announced as the new nominee, and I retreated to my computer to reflect on my brush with history.

I admit, however, that Judge Alito is the better option over Harriet Miers or myself. Miers would have been a stab in the dark for conservatives. She could have been a wild-eyed liberal who slashed state’s rights and crafted policy out of law, learning as she went. I could have been a mole for the Campus Greens, or worse, Tom Mackaman’s socialist party. After years of betrayal from so-called conservatives who earned appointments to the high court, we could not afford risks like Miers or myself.

Yet, liberals complained about Miers’ lack of judicial experience and that they couldn’t pinpoint her track record. So now Bush served up something they could pinpoint: a judge’s judge, a man’s man and a conservative’s conservative.

Judge Alito was sick of liberals telling Americans that we can’t display religious symbols in public during the holidays. In 1997, he wrote the majority opinion in a case that allowed a city to display a Nativity scene and a menorah.

In the historic Planned Parenthood V. Casey, Alito was the sole dissenter arguing in favor of a Pennsylvania law requiring women to consult their husbands before getting an abortion. His language was the most simple and appropriate on the subject ever written. Many of the potential reasons for an abortion, Alito wrote, such as “economic constraints, future plans, or the husbands’ previously expressed opposition … may be obviated by discussion prior to abortion.” Supporting a law that protects families and guards against rushed decisions is just one component of Judge Alito’s conservative common sense approach.

Yet, he is still bound to face a tough confirmation process. Just as Chief Justice John Roberts was grilled for his positions on political issues despite his judicial qualifications, Alito will be too. But because Alito has been a proud subscriber to strict constructionalism since being confirmed unanimously by the Senate in 1990, objectivity will mean nothing to Democrats who see a Scalia-Thomas-Roberts-Alito stronghold on the horizon.

I can always count on an entertaining bit from Sen. Ted Kenney, D-Mass., to explain liberal hypocrisy at moments like this. In 1990, he said of nominee Alito, “You have obviously had a very distinguished record, and I certainly commend you for long service in the public interest … I am sure you will have a successful (career) as a judge.” But now, he is just a barnacle of conformity on the sunken ship that is the Democratic party. Last week he said Alito “could very well fundamentally alter the balance of the court and push it dangerously to the right, placing at risk decades of American progress.”

While it would have been fun to sit in front of Kennedy at my confirmation hearing and ask him to disclose his records regarding a certain manslaughter investigation in the ’60s, I’m happy that Bush swallowed his pride, booted Miers and selected Alito instead. Hopefully Senate Republicans won’t have to exercise their option of blocking a Democratic filibuster in the Senate, but if so, get ready for fireworks. It will be a battle won by the Republicans and will cement a contingent of responsible judges on the Supreme Court for quite some time.

Chuck Prochaska is a junior in LAS. His column appears every Thursday. He can be reached at [email protected]