All it took was one brilliant stroke for President Bush to win back his base, shift the news focus and restore hope to his beleaguered presidency. That stroke was Judge Samuel Alito of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, whom President Bush nominated to fill Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's seat on the Supreme Court.
Alito is the judge true constitutionalists have been waiting for. He is no enigma. He reads the Constitution as it was meant when it was written, and he is not afraid to challenge precedent. Alito realizes that deference to the Constitution and, absent a relevant provision of the Constitution, deference to legislatures both outweigh deference to past Supreme Court decisions. Alito is the judge we were promised by President Bush in his last presidential campaign; he is truly in the mold of Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia.
His credentials are impeccable: the Ivy League education (Princeton University and Yale Law School), the governmental experience (assistant to the solicitor general, deputy assistant attorney general), the time on the bench (15 years on the Third Circuit). And he's only 55.
More importantly, however, is Alito's judicial philosophy. Alito isn't some strange, enigmatic personality (see Souter, David) who can pump up his reputation with jurisprudential conservatives by spouting originalist talking points. Alito's background shows his dedication to originalist ideals. He was the lone dissenting voice on the Third Circuit in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1991), the case concerning a Pennsylvania state requirement that husbands be notified before wives received abortions. Alito, still an appellate court judge bound by Supreme Court precedent, criticized the majority opinion's conclusion that spousal notification created an "undue burden" on pregnant women seeking an abortion. Wrote Alito: "The Pennsylvania legislature could have rationally believed that some married women are initially inclined to obtain an abortion without their husbands' knowledge because of perceived problems -- such as economic constraints, future plans, or the husbands' previously expressed opposition -- that may be obviated by discussion prior to the abortion."