Robert Novak

"Not at all," Reid told me, when I asked him. Recalling his many votes against partial birth abortion, he indicated he supported the court's abortion decision. "I just don't like what Alito has done on other cases," he said. What other cases? "I can't recall," Reid replied, but promised aides would let me know.

They did so several hours later. Out of more than 50 decisions participated in by Alito, I was told Reid disagreed with four of them. They include Alito dissents, in 5 to 4 opinions, on mandating the federal government to consider global warming and the Hamdan case granting habeas corpus rights to U.S. detainees. Alito concurred in a 5 to 4 decision limiting federal regulation of wetlands and wrote the majority opinion in a 6 to 3 outcome (concurred in by usually liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg) rejecting federal funding of an educational consultant under the disabilities act. But there is no record of Reid criticizing Alito's court opinions before last Wednesday.

Thomas Carper, the low-profile junior senator from Delaware, tries to walk down the middle of the road on abortion. He was rated 55 percent pro-choice in 2006, but was one of the 17 Democrats voting to ban partial birth abortion three years earlier.

Sometimes disarming in his comments, he said last week after the court upheld the 2003 bill: "I think a number of people who voted for it thought that the court would ultimately strike it down."

Carper's comment pointed to Democrats who are partial pro-lifers when it comes to partial birth abortion. The presence of Justice Alito on the court instead of Justice O'Connor undermines that posture. The party's presidential candidate will be on record for partial birth abortion. How many Democrats will follow in 2008?

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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