The Economist on the Alito Hearings

TED KENNEDY is deeply troubled by the ethics of the Supreme Court nominee. Between 2001 and 2006, Samuel Alito, who is currently an appeals court judge, accepted $7,684,423 in “donations” from special interests who perhaps wanted the law tweaked in their favour. That included $28,000 from defence contractors, $42,200 from drug firms and a whopping $745,373 from lawyers and law firms.

No, wait. Those are Senator Kennedy’s conflicts of interest—or, rather, a brief excerpt from a long list compiled by the Centre for Responsive Politics. The lapse for which the senator berated Mr Alito was considerably less clear-cut.

Nice. Those weren’t even the same Kennedy ethical lapses I had in mind as I watched him attempt to slander Alito as a bigot. True, were Alito a bigot or unethical, Kennedy’s character would be irrelevant: in that case Alito’s nomination should be rejected. However, from the hearings it seems clear that whatever he is, Alito is neither bigoted nor unethical. Kennedy’s attempts to characterize him as such should have struck any fair-minded observer as only political grandstanding.

I also had the same impression about the respective abilities of Alito and his senatorial interlocutors as does the Economist‘s writer:

Judge Alito seems shy and bookish—his wife, a former law librarian, says it took him 13 months to ask her out. When he first appeared before the Senate, he was so nervous he was briefly struck dumb. But he soon found his stride, because he clearly knows more about the law than his inquisitors do.

Even a cursory look at his record shows that the sound-bite charges against Judge Alito—that he doesn’t think machineguns should be regulated, that he never sides with blacks alleging discrimination—are simply untrue. His record on the bench is one of cautious rulings and scrupulous deference to precedent.

HT: Professor Bainbridge

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