November 19, 2005

PFAW Strikes Again

In its relentless campaign to paint Judge Alito as outside the mainstream, People For the American Way is harping anew on his 1985 Justice Department job application. This time, PFAW's focus is on Alito's mention of his membership in the conservative Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP). In a press release yesterday, PFAW President Ralph Neas attempts to stir alarm about Alito's "membership in an organization known for its fervent hostility to the inclusion of women and minorities at Princeton." What Neas is referring to – sans the rhetoric – is that some of CAP's leadership made comments in the 1970's and early 80's critical of coeducation and affirmative action in admissions.

Neas is grasping for straws here for several reasons. First, it is not at all clear that these comments represented official positions of CAP. Second, membership in a group does not mean that one agrees with all of its positions. Third, Alito's personal (and decades old) views on coeducation, affirmative action, or any other issue are irrelevant to what kind of Justice he will be.

Fourth, the views that Neas is attacking are hardly outside the mainstream. For example, a solid majority of Americans oppose affirmative action in admissions. And, in the 1970's, when coeducation was brand new in the Ivy League, many people questioned the resulting loss of tradition. In fact, today, many people across the political spectrum defend the value of women's colleges. I don't suppose PFAW would consider Hillary Clinton too radical to be on the Supreme Court because she continues to be associated with her alma mater Wellesley, which excludes men to this day.

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