- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. told senators yesterday that his personal pro-life views as a young lawyer have no bearing on how he would rule on abortion cases in a courtroom, according to several members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“It was different then. I was an advocate seeking a job. It was a political job,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein said, paraphrasing Judge Alito’s comments to her during an hourlong meeting yesterday. “I’m now a judge … I’m not an advocate. I don’t give heed to my personal views. What I do is interpret the law.”

Judge Alito’s comments were in response to Mrs. Feinstein’s questions about a 1985 essay written by the young Republican lawyer that was attached to a job application to become deputy assistant to the attorney general in the Reagan administration. Mrs. Feinstein, a Democrat from California, said she thought Judge Alito’s response was “sincere.”

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat who also sits on the committee and met with Judge Alito yesterday afternoon, was less accepting of the nominee’s explanation.

“He indicated that [the] memoranda … was written as a job application for a position, and he was writing as a member of the Justice Department that was interested in getting a job,” Mr. Kennedy told reporters. “And so I asked him why shouldn’t we consider that the answers you’re giving today are an application for another job.”

Although Mr. Kennedy said the written statement “troubled” him, he did not make a big issue out of it with reporters crammed in his office.

The unexpectedly favorable response to Judge Alito by Democrats on the Judiciary Committee raised eyebrows among some Democrats who had hoped that Mrs. Feinstein and Mr. Kennedy would assess the nominee more harshly in light of his written, personal views about abortion.

But Democrats apparently are focusing their efforts this week on criticizing the Bush administration for the Iraq war.

“That is the stronger message right now,” said one Democrat staffer, requesting anonymity. “But it doesn’t mean this one falls by the wayside.”

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Georgia Republican, who also met with Judge Alito yesterday, said the nominee’s only sin is being a conservative.

“This man is a conservative,” he said. “He’s been a conservative all his life, and in 1985 when he was applying for a job, he reiterated that fact in his application.”

“I believe very strongly in limited government, federalism, free enterprise, the supremacy of the elected branches of government, the need for a strong defense and effective law enforcement, and the legitimacy of a government role in protecting traditional values,” Judge Alito wrote in his job application 20 years ago.

In the same paper, Judge Alito said it was his personally held belief that the Constitution does not contain a right to abortion as determined by the Supreme Court in the Roe v. Wade decision.

But Mrs. Feinstein wasn’t going to brand the nominee yesterday.

“I’m not sure that with respect to Roe exactly what his personal view is,” she said. “He’s been a circuit court judge now for 15 years.”

Of the four abortion cases he has handled on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Mrs. Feinstein noted, Judge Alito has ruled with the pro-choice side three times and the pro-life side once.

None of it amounts to a reason for filibustering him, she added.

Still, her constituents back home are not thrilled with the nominee. She said her office has received 7,200 calls against the nomination and only 300 in favor. The negative-call volume is considerably less, however, than it was for the nomination of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., whom Mrs. Feinstein opposed.

“My overall impression of him was he’s very sincere. He was very direct in answering my questions,” she said. “He clearly is well-steeped in the law, has a good mind, [and] is an able thinker.”

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