Liberals' response to the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito Jr., to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is as hysterical as it was predictable. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D.-Nev., blamed the "radical right wing" for Alito's selection. Failed Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry, D.-Mass., echoed the sentiment. "Has the right wing now forced a weakened president to nominate a divisive justice in the mold of Antonin Scalia?" Kerry asked, rhetorically. And it wasn't just senators, but left leaning interest groups that joined the fray. Ralph Neas of the mis-named People for the American Way warned, "Replacing a mainstream conservative like Justice O'Connor with a far-right activist like Samuel Alito would threaten Americans' rights and legal protections for decades."
For all the talk of right-wing coups, Alito is no radical but a judicious, thoughtful, and careful jurist with one of the most impressive resumes of any nominee in modern Supreme Court history. He's been a career lawyer in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, a federal prosecutor with a distinguished record of prosecuting organized crime, and an appellate judge for more than 15 years. You couldn't find a better prepared candidate, unlike President Bush's previous nominee, Harriet Miers, whose nomination floundered when it became apparent she lacked experience dealing with constitutional issues. So what exactly are Democrats so afraid of?
It boils down to one issue: abortion. Democrats have been worrying for years that Roe v. Wade would be reversed when a Republican took the White House and began appointing justices to the Supreme Court. They warned about it during President Reagan's and President George H.W. Bush's terms, inveighing against their nominees to the Supreme Court during Senate hearings. Liberals attacked Sandra Day O'Connor, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, and Clarence Thomas for their presumed anti-abortion views, but only Justices Thomas and Reagan appointee Scalia have consistently opposed the legal reasoning in Roe v. Wade in their subsequent decisions. Ironically, Scalia faced little criticism when he was named to the court in 1986 and was unanimously confirmed by the Senate -- touted at the time for being the first Italian American to be appointed to the high court. O'Connor, Kennedy, and Souter, despite the dire predictions of Democrats, have repeatedly reaffirmed the basic outlines of Roe v. Wade.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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