Racism was once an important issue in this country. Martin Luther King Day reminds us of the time and the struggle. Unfortunately today, a once-important issue has been so politicized and exploited, it has been cheapened into meaninglessness.
The character attacks by Sen. Edward Kennedy and his Democratic colleagues on Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito is a good example of this.
The contingent of Democratic senators, with no substantive arguments to question the stellar credentials of Alito, chose instead to smear him, and of course the brush that liberals predictably reach for in smear operations is racism.
The allegations that Alito's brief encounter more than 30 years ago with the Concerned Alumni of Princeton, an organization supposedly unsympathetic to affirmative action, point to his being a closet racist were quickly shown to be absurd. Aside from the far from clear issue of whether the organization itself had racist leanings, investigation into attendance records and minutes showed Alito absent and unengaged. Alito himself, hardly able to remember his involvement, recalled that the organization possibly appealed to him because it opposed the banishment of ROTC from the Princeton campus.
Racism is a serious charge and I certainly would oppose the appointment of a racist to the Supreme Court or to any court.
But the issue here was and is not whether Samuel Alito is a racist. It is obvious he's not, and these Democratic senators know that. The issue is public posturing to cast aspersions on a man's character in order to undermine his confirmation prospects. The race card was pulled out as another tool from the character assassination toolbox used for this end.
It is no wonder that, according to a just released poll from the Pew Research Center, a whopping 14 percent of the American public is paying very close attention to the Alito confirmation hearings. The public sees the hearings, and increasingly the general proceedings of government in Washington, as a side show and have better things to do with their time.
Only about a third of those polled felt that either party governs in an "honest and ethical way." Regarding the scandals currently in the news in Washington, 81 percent of the public feels that lobbyists bribing members of Congress is "common behavior."
The performance by Kennedy and his colleagues at these confirmation hearings provides good evidence as to why the American public is as cynical and disaffected as it is regarding its public officials.
From my perspective, the behavior of the Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee conducting the hearings is more characteristic of racism than anything that could be remotely attributed to Alito.