When I retired as publisher of National Review in 1988, I sent all my office files to the Library of Congress. It had requested them, as part of its archive of 20th century political manuscripts. I guess they thought students of conservatism might find them useful someday.
Among them were my files on Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP), a group I had helped found in 1972 to protest Princeton's steady drift toward being what a fellow alumnus, my old National Review colleague James Burnham, sadly called "just another liberal joint." Our two chief concerns were its deliberate debasing of its admission standards to meet self-imposed racial and ethnic quotas (the policy that later became famous as "affirmative action," and which the Supreme Court recently ruled unconstitutional if adopted by public universities), and its decision to throw the ROTC right off the campus.
CAP survived for a dozen years or so, publishing (with money contributed by yet another alumnus, former Ambassador to Switzerland Shelby Cullom Davis) a periodical called Prospect, and sending mailings to Princeton alumni -- a practice that understandably distressed the university administration.
Then in 1985, Samuel A. Alito Jr., a Princeton graduate who was applying for a job in the Reagan administration's Justice Department, decided to include in his resume -- presumably to impress the Reaganites with his conservatism -- the datum that he had been a "member" of CAP.
Fast forward to November 2005. Alito, now a distinguished judge, has been nominated by President Bush to succeed Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court. It occurred to David Kirkpatrick, a New York Times reporter and yet another Princetonian, to look into my files on CAP at the Library of Congress, to see if they revealed anything about Alito's activity in the group, or anything discreditable about CAP itself. Pursuant to the Library's rules, Kirkpatrick asked my permission, which I cheerfully gave. In a subsequent article in the Times, he acknowledged right up front in the second paragraph that "there is no evidence that (Alito) played an active or prominent role" in CAP. The rest of the article described CAP's activities and concerns, which were exactly what you would expect of a group of conservative alumni.
But he did not extinguish the suspicion (or hope), which was now germinating on the loony left, that my files might contain something truly damaging to Alito -- or at least to CAP, with which Alito might then be smeared by association. (If so, why had Kirkpatrick missed it? Maybe they thought he, too, was part of the vast right-wing conspiracy.)
William Rusher is a Distinguished Fellow of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy and author of How to Win Arguments .
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