"Extreme: the most remote in any direction; outermost or farthest: the extreme edge of the field." (American Heritage Dictionary)
Judge Samuel Alito, President Bush's nominee to the Supreme Court, applied for a promotion while working in the Reagan administration. His 1985 application read, in part: "I am particularly proud of my contributions in recent cases in which the government has argued in the Supreme Court that racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion."
Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, immediately pounced. These "extreme statements," said Kennedy, were "deeply troubling." Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said the application raised questions about Alito's "ideological" position. The New York Times followed up with an obligatory editorial also denouncing as "extreme" Alito's assertion that "the Constitution does not protect the right to an abortion."
When did opposition to quotas become "extreme"?
Quotas -- except when imposed by court order to redress a past pattern of discrimination -- have always been illegal. Paul Igasaki, vice chairman of the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission under Bill Clinton, said in 1995: "As a general rule, current law abhors and bans quotas."
About "quotas," President John F. Kennedy, in a 1963 interview, said, "The Negro community did not want job quotas to compensate for past discrimination. . . . I don't think quotas are a good idea. I think it is a mistake to begin to assign quotas on the basis of religion or race -- color -- nationality. . . . On the other hand, I do think that we ought to make an effort to give a fair chance to everyone who is qualified -- not through a quota -- but just look over our employment rolls, look over our areas where we are hiring people and at least make sure we are giving everyone a fair chance. But not hard and fast quotas. . . . We are too mixed, this society of ours, to begin to divide ourselves on the basis of race or color."
The chorus denouncing quotas includes former President Bill Clinton. After his 1992 election, some women's groups criticized then President-elect Clinton for failing to appoint what they deemed a sufficient number of females to his administration. Clinton responded, "They're playing quota games and math games. I don't believe in quotas." In states that placed "affirmative action" on the ballot for voter approval -- California and Washington -- voters rejected preferences. And in California, nearly 30 percent of black voters rejected race- and gender-based preferences.
Hubert Humphrey, then Democratic senator from Minnesota, later vice president, co-sponsored the 1964 Civil Rights Bill. Humphrey, hoping to induce votes from reluctant Democrats who feared racial preferences, said, " . . . [N]othing in the bill would permit any official or court to require any employer or labor union to give preferential treatment to any minority group." Humphrey challenged one colleague who raised fears that the bill allowed quotas: "If the Senator can find . . . any language which provides that an employer will have to hire on the basis of percentage or quota related to color . . . I will start eating the pages one after another, because it is not in there."
Even The New York Times, in their anti-Alito editorial, made no reference whatsoever to the Alito application's opposition to "quotas." The Times obviously knows better than to call opposition to quotas "extreme," even if Sens. Kennedy and Schumer do not.
What about Alito's assertion that "the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion"? Is this position "extreme"?
In 1985, Harris Polls found that respondents split evenly on Roe v. Wade. Twenty years later, the nation, according to Harris, remains fairly evenly divided on the issue of Roe v. Wade. This places 50 percent of the nation in the "extreme" category.
Even former President Jimmy Carter now says Democrats make a tactical and moral mistake in making the "pro-choice" position so central to the party. "I never have felt that any abortion should be committed," said Carter recently. "I think each abortion is the result of a series of errors. . . . These things impact other issues on which [Mr. Bush] and I basically agree. I've never been convinced, if you let me inject my Christianity into it, that Jesus Christ would approve abortion."
Opposition to quotas -- extreme. Belief that the Constitution does not protect the right to an abortion -- extreme. In short, an "extremist" -- to a liberal -- simply means someone with whom they disagree.