- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 3, 2005

Gunning down a lie

“Here’s what you should understand about the claim that Judge Sam Alito ‘favors legal machine guns’: It’s a lie,” Denver Rocky Mountain News columnist Vince Carroll writes.

“It is also a sound bite from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence that has been picked up by a host of pundits who would rather caricature a legal opinion than understand it,” Mr. Carroll said.

“‘Machine Gun Sammy, a perfect Halloween pick,’ is how the Brady Campaign headlined President Bush’s latest Supreme Court nominee. But what the Brady activists failed to acknowledge is that Alito’s dissent in the 1996 case United States v. Rybar had nothing to do with a desire to legalize machine guns and everything to do with the judge’s determination to follow a Supreme Court precedent from the previous year.

“In that earlier case, United States v. Lopez, the court overturned a federal law banning possession of guns within 1,000 feet of any school because the statute was an intrusion into states’ regulatory arena and utterly unrelated to interstate commerce. Congress had been steadily nationalizing local criminal codes for years, and the Supreme Court finally threw up its hands and said, ‘Halt!’”

“In his Rybar dissent that is now being mocked, Alito faithfully tried to apply Lopez to a case involving the possession of machine guns. ‘Was United States v. Lopez a constitutional freak?’ he wrote. ‘Or did it signify that the Commerce Clause still imposes some meaningful limits on congressional power?’

“Meanwhile, not only did Alito point out how Congress might remedy the law’s fatal flaws, he also noted that the ‘Commerce Clause does not prevent the states from regulating machine gun possession, as all of the jurisdictions within our circuit have done.’

“Alito didn’t favor legal machine guns. He favored abiding by the supreme law of this land.”

Liberals for Alito

“Samuel A. Alito Jr. was quickly branded a hard-core conservative after President Bush announced his nomination, but a surprising number of liberal-leaning judges and ex-clerks say they support his elevation to the Supreme Court,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

“Those who have worked alongside him say he was neither an ideologue nor a judge with an agenda, conservative or otherwise. They caution against attaching a label to Alito,” reporters David G. Savage and Henry Weinstein said.

Kate Pringle, a New York lawyer who worked last year on Sen. John F. Kerry’s presidential campaign, describes herself as a left-leaning Democrat and a big fan of Alito’s.

“She worked for him as a law clerk in 1994, and said she was troubled by the initial reaction to his nomination. ‘He was not, in my personal experience, an ideologue. He pays attention to the facts of cases and applies the law in a careful way. He is conservative in that sense; his opinions don’t demonstrate an ideological slant,’ she said.”

“Former federal Judge Timothy K. Lewis said that when he joined the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in 1992, he consulted his mentor, Judge A. Leon Higginbotham Jr. The late Higginbotham, a legendary liberal and a scholar of U.S. racial history, was the only other black judge on the Philadelphia-based court at the time.

“‘As he was going down the roster of colleagues, he got to Sam Alito. I expressed some concern about [him] being so conservative. He said, “No, no. Sam Alito is my favorite judge to sit with on this court. He is a wonderful judge and a terrific human being. Sam Alito is my kind of conservative. He is intellectually honest. He doesn’t have an agenda. He is not an ideologue,”’ Higginbotham said, according to Lewis.”

Courts v. parents

A federal appeals court yesterday dismissed a lawsuit by parents who were outraged that a school district had surveyed their elementary school-age children about sex, the Associated Press reports.

The three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the parents’ claim that they have the exclusive right to tell their children about sex.

“No such specific right can be found in the deep roots of the nation’s history and tradition or implied in the concept of ordered liberty,” wrote Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt, a 1980 appointee of President Carter.

The appeals court noted that other courts have upheld mandatory health classes, a school system’s condom-distribution program and compulsory sex education.

Dennis Walsh, attorney for the Palmdale school district north of Los Angeles, said the survey was part of a legitimate effort aimed at helping students.

The survey was given to children in the first, third and fifth grades as part of a program to gauge early trauma and help youngsters overcome barriers to learning. Among other things, the students were asked how often they thought about sex.

Parents whose students took the survey signed consent forms. But the forms never mentioned sex would be a topic.

Kerry for pullout

“No more shell games. No more false reports of progress. No more misleading rhetoric about ‘staying as long as it takes,’” Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, wrote in an e-mail to supporters yesterday.

“It’s time for the American people to demand that George W. Bush put forward a clear understandable plan for achieving America’s goals in Iraq and bringing the vast majority of our troops home by the end of 2006,” wrote Mr. Kerry, who voted for the Iraq war. “The time is overdue for a plan with a clarity and vision equal to the valor and sacrifices of America’s brave armed forces.”

The e-mail directed supporters to the senator’s Web site, www.johnkerry.com, and urged them to sign a petition, “supporting our ‘20,000 troops home over the holidays’ campaign.”

As part of that campaign, Mr. Kerry said, “We’ll place our ‘20,000 home over the holidays’ message on billboards in the home districts of Republican leaders. We’ll organize 20,000 letters to the editors in newspapers all across the nation … run newspaper and radio ads” and “organize personal e-mail campaigns.”

Beyond tedious

Jimmy Carter’s 20th book is a tedious meditation about the appropriate uses of moral values in political life — as wisely and humbly exemplified by Himself — and of their misuses under the current Bush administration,” Wall Street Journal editorialist Bret Stephens writes in a review of “Our Endangered Values.”

“But tedious isn’t quite the right word here, because it suggests mere boredom, while Mr. Carter’s prose manages to be irritating as well. Is there an English-language equivalent to the German Rechthaberei, which loosely translates as the state of thinking and behaving as if you’re in the right and everyone else is in the wrong?

“Yet even such a term doesn’t quite capture the sanctimony, the self-congratulation, the humorlessness, the convenient factual omissions and the passive-aggressive quirks that characterize our 39th president’s aggressively passive worldview. Mr. Carter is sui generis. He deserves his own word.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected]

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