CFJ Response to Chicago Tribune Article
To the Editors of the Chicago Tribune:
In his Sunday column [“Should the Senate Vote on Alito’s Ideology?] Steve Chapman directly attacks the Committee for Justice (CFJ) for claiming that we support Judge Alito because he is one of the most qualified judges ever to be nominated to the Supreme Court and is a paragon of judicial modesty and restraint, when really we support him because we are looking for a judge to oppose the American Civil Liberties Union’s positions on flag burning and internet child pornography.
Mr. Chapman’s (willful?) misunderstanding of our position both on Judge Alito and our opposition to the coalition of extremist left-wing groups that are trying to undermine his nomination, is poor support for his absurd assertion later in the article that Senators should vote on judicial nominees based on whether or not the “ideology” of the judge in question matches their own views on a variety of topics.
First, we support Judge Alito, as stated above, because of his experience and the fact that he is one of the most respected legal minds in the country. Moreover, as a former federal prosecutor he brings to the court experience that no other current sitting justice has, experience that is all the more important considering the legal issues that have come up in the War on Terror.
Furthermore, CFJ supports Alito because we feel that he will be a neutral interpreter of established law and will not fall prey to grandiose delusions that a Supreme Court justice should be a philosopher-king, writing new law and changing social and economic policy. We are satisfied that Alito is not an ideologue, but rather a “pro-law” judge who does not decide cases based on policy preferences or which litigant garners more sympathy, but rather rules for the party that has the law on its side.
We also believe that elections should actually matter. Not only President Bush, but several Republicans Senators have run on issue of putting constitutionalist judges on the federal bench. As a result the President won re-election, and the GOP has a solid majority in the Senate. It is not only the President’s responsibility; it is also his duty to nominate the kind of judges he promised to America during the election.
In short, we endorse Alito because he is the opposite of the results-oriented judge the Left needs to advance an agenda which has consistently lost at the ballot box. It is this agenda that we seek to expose in our most recent ads and white paper. The constant refrain of these Left-wing groups and their puppets in the Senate is that Alito (or Roberts, or Bork, or whomever they’re attacking) is “out of the mainstream.” We seek to inform the public of the views these Left-wing groups hold and ask, “Who truly is out of the mainstream of American opinion?”
Apparently, judicial activism makes strange bedfellows, because the supposedly libertarian Mr. Chapman apparently takes the side of liberals like Ted Kennedy, Dick Durbin and Ralph Neas in claiming that ideology is what matters in a judicial appointment. “I won’t deny that ideology matters to me,” Mr. Chapman sanctimoniously declares. It seems Mr. Chapman is OK with liberals installing social activists on the federal bench, just so long as he gets to vote for someone who would read his laissez-faire economic viewpoint into the Constitution.
The practical result of Mr. Chapman’s view is that the Senate, in conflict with the Appointments Clause of the Constitution, would become a co-equal partner with the President in selecting who would sit on the federal bench. Since, as Mr. Chapman would have it, each Senator would vote based on his or her ideology, the President would be forced to select a judge with either no record at all, or a record that reflects the ideology of the majority of the Senate at that time. Under this regime not only would Robert Bork have been rejected, but so would have Justices Stevens, Kennedy, Thomas, Souter and Breyer.
The history of the Senate makes it clear that not only was ideology not a consideration in the nomination process, but that the President’s selections for the federal bench were given great deference. Indeed, it was not until 1955 that Senate hearings on Supreme Court appointments became standard procedure. Even in the 1980’s nominees like Antonin Scalia, whose prior pronouncements would cause uproar if he were nominated today, were unanimously confirmed by the Senate. The fact of the matter is that ideology has never been part of the judicial selection process until recently and it’s not something we should welcome.
Judge Alito should be confirmed because he is exactly what the Supreme Court and the country needs: An experienced, modest judge of even temperament, unquestionable integrity and great intellect who will help the court move toward a more restrained, less politicized path.