- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 12, 2006

President Bush and Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday said Democrats went too far this week in their repeated questioning of the personal ethics and integrity of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr.

“The attacks on Judge Alito’s character have gone beyond the pale,” Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, said yesterday after the panel concluded four days of questioning the Supreme Court nominee.

“It is unfortunate for the American people to see such an ugly side of Washington during the hearings for our nation’s highest court,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

Democrats became more aggressive midweek, repeatedly questioning Judge Alito about his purported ties to a Princeton alumni group they called racist and misogynistic. They also questioned Judge Alito about why he initially failed to recuse himself from a case involving Vanguard, though he had investments with the mutual fund company.

“I can understand bringing the Vanguard and Princeton issues up, but to repeatedly harp on these accusations shows how desperate the Democrats have become. They can’t win on the facts, they can’t win on integrity and they can’t win on the law, so they have to resort to innuendo,” Mr. Hatch said.

Judge Alito’s wife left the hearing room in tears Wednesday, and some Republicans said the public empathized with her.

“We have gotten quite a few calls,” said John Hart, spokesman for Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican. “The unfortunate episode with Judge Alito’s wife I think illustrates the hostility and mean-spiritedness of public confirmation hearings, and I think the public finds it revolting. That’s the tone of the calls we’re getting.”

Other Republican committee members’ offices reported receiving few, if any, calls on the issue.

The office of ranking committee Democrat Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, had no official comment but said they received fewer than a dozen calls specifically referencing Martha Alito or any questioning.

Democrats said they were only doing their job in vetting a potential lifetime nominee.

“We would be remiss … if we didn’t ask the important questions,” said Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat. “What we were dealing with was the record in front of us.”

Mr. Durbin said he empathized with Mrs. Alito when she became upset, adding that he asked Judge Alito yesterday in a private meeting if she was OK. The lawmaker said he understands firsthand how tough public office can be because his own family has become upset in the past when he has faced public criticism.

Mr. McClellan, however, said some committee Democrats this week sought to “lower the discourse” by making “pathetic personal attacks to please a small, but vocal constituency of outside-the-mainstream liberal groups.” Judge Alito showed he is “a brilliant, honorable, open-minded and fair jurist,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, defended the Democrats’ actions as necessary.

“Democrats on the committee did their jobs by asking tough questions about important issues: civil rights, privacy, environmental protections, the danger of unchecked presidential power and others,” he said. “Unfortunately, Judge Alito’s responses did little to address my serious concerns about his 15-year judicial record.”

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