- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday raised the volume of their objections to the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. by grilling him over his ties to a Princeton alumni group that they called racist and misogynist.

They also accused Judge Alito of always ruling against “the little guy” and of evading their questions on abortion and such other hot-button issues as his membership in Concerned Alumni of Princeton, which opposed the admission of women to the all-male school.

“Explanations about the membership in this sort of radical group and why you listed it on your job application are extremely troubling,” said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat. “And, in fact, I don’t think that they add up.”

Mr. Kennedy demanded during yesterday’s hearing that records about the group be subpoenaed, and panel chairman Arlen Specter secured access to the documents during yesterday’s lunch break. By yesterday afternoon, staffers for Democrats and Republicans were going through the records at the Library of Congress, a task expected to be finished by this morning.

Republicans dismissed the dust-up — the most dramatic exchange in three days of hearings — as a desperate, last-ditch effort by Democrats to stop certain confirmation of Judge Alito.

“Your critics are, I think, grasping at any straw to tarnish your record,” said Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican.

“It’s kind of like we’re in the fourth quarter of a football game, and you’re the quarterback,” he said. “Your team is way ahead here in the fourth quarter, and opponents are very desperate, keep trying to sack you and aren’t doing a very good job of it.”

But it did get to Judge Alito’s wife, Martha, who sat directly behind him.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, questioned the nominee about his association with the alumni group in an effort to portray Democratic accusations as ridiculous.

“Are you really a closet bigot?” he asked.

“I am not any kind of bigot. I’m not,” Judge Alito replied.

“No, sir, you’re not,” agreed Mr. Graham. “You seem to be a decent, honorable man.”

During the exchange, Mrs. Alito left the hearing room in tears. She later returned to her seat and resumed her constant smile for the rest of the day.

“Graham’s statement brought out some long-held emotions about how he was being characterized,” former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats, who is assisting the Bush administration on the nomination, told reporters later. “Her emotions just caught up with her after 2 1/2 days of hearing her husband’s record mischaracterized.”

Several Democrats made it clear yesterday that after a placid first two days, they were waging an election-year fight.

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