Was it an attack by the liberal Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass.? No. A putdown by liberal Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.? No. The person calling Judge Alito "ultra-conservative"? None other than NBC's Matt Lauer.
Yo, Matt, your liberalism is showing.
Lauer sat with former Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., on the "Today" show and analyzed the Sam Alito hearings. Lauer pointed to Alito's 1985 application for a job in the Reagan administration: "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."
What happened next -- even in our era of obvious left-leaning media bias -- still astonishes. After reading that part of the application, Lauer blurted, "But let's face it, he is an ultra-conservative and his track record on the bench is that he, he, he goes to the right on key issues."
Thompson gamely responded, "He's not an ultra-conservative. He's a conservative in a conservative mainstream, just like Democratic appointees have been liberal in a liberal mainstream."
Lauer's comments suggest that only "ultra-conservatives" oppose quotas. Yet back in 1963, President John F. Kennedy said:
I don't think we can undo the past. In fact, the past is going to be with us for a good many years in uneducated men and women who lost their chance for a decent education. We have to do the best we can now. That is what we are trying to do. I don't think quotas are a good idea. [Emphasis added.] 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.
JFK an "ultra-conservative"? Who'd have thought it?
Lauer apparently feels that any opposition to Roe v. Wade meets the definition of "ultra-conservative." True, 59 percent of Americans, according to a recent CBS poll, call Roe a "good thing." But when pressed more specifically, people give answers that change the picture dramatically. Only 25 percent want abortion on demand -- effectively the Roe position. Fourteen percent want abortion permitted with more restrictions; 38 percent want abortions permitted in rape, incest and to save women's lives; 15 percent want abortion permitted only to save women's lives; and 3 percent want abortion not permitted at all. When added together, 70 percent want greater, not fewer, restrictions on abortion!
Even Alito's staunchest critics -- Sen. Schumer and Sen. Kennedy -- show more restraint than did Lauer. Kennedy called Alito's views "frightening." Schumer said Alito was "picked to placate the right-wing," adding that his "record of opinions and statements on a number of critical constitutional questions seems quite extreme."
If Lauer calls Alito an "ultra-conservative," does he ever use the term "ultra-liberal"? The liberal ADA -- Americans For Democratic Action -- scores members of Congress from 0 to 100, with 100 meaning most liberal. (By contrast, the ACU -- American Conservative Union -- also scores Congress 0 to 100, with 100 being the most conservative.) Under the ADA rating, for example, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., receives an ADA rating of 100; Sen. Kennedy scores a 100; and Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., rates a 100. Would Lauer refer to them as "ultra-liberals"?
So Mr. Lauer, a little unsolicited advice. When you next wish to inject your opinion, do a better job of covering your behind. Show a little more craftiness. Take, for example, the time ABC's Diane Sawyer interviewed former Whitewater prosecutor Ken Starr. Like many who never got it -- or didn't want to -- Diane Sawyer apparently felt the investigation of Clinton was about infidelity, rather than perjury. She wanted to ask Starr the completely irrelevant question about whether he ever cheated on his wife. But, unlike Lauer, she gave herself some cover: "I cannot tell you how many people have said to me, 'Ask Ken.' Do I have a right to ask you about your sex life?" Got that?
So, Mr. Lauer, how about something like this: "I cannot tell you, Sen. Thompson, how many friends of mine look at Alito's 1985 application and call him 'ultra-conservative.' Do you think it's fair to call him 'ultra-conservative'?"
Something like that. No charge for the advice. Although contributions are happily accepted.