- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 12, 2006

Alito and the side show

As a Democrat, I’m embarrassed to watch Sens. Edward M. Kennedy, Joseph R. Biden Jr., et al. try to use Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr.’s words and deeds from the 1980s to question his qualifications for the Supreme Court in 2006 (“Alito accused of racism,” Page 1, yesterday). Is that the best they can do — argue about things the man wrote and did half a life ago?

I wouldn’t want to be accountable for the beliefs I held or comments I made in my relative youth. And I’m sure the senators also would not like to revisit every choice they made at the start of their careers. Surely a person’s perspective and wisdom evolve over the course of 20 years.

There are many legitimate lines of inquiry that should be pursued regarding Judge Alito’s judicial philosophy and record; for example, his views on executive powers in an age of terrorism. Questioning decades-old decisions is not one of them.

ROBERT J. INLOW

Charlottesville

The Senate confirmation hearings for Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. have deteriorated into a political circus. This appears to be the new paradigm for the Senate Judiciary Committee, where senators seem more bent on making personal political speeches than adequately delving into substantial questions of the nominee’s qualifications for the high court.

I find it quite interesting that many of the questions have been related to Congress’ power vis-a-vis the Supreme Court. While senators find it appealing in this particular arena to grill the nominee about the appropriateness of judicial limits on congressional authority, these same senators are at other times far too eager to acquiesce to the courts on contentious issues where they have neither the votes nor the guts to legislate on them.

It seems to me that this is the real reason for Sens. Patrick J. Leahy, Edward M. Kennedy, Charles E. Schumer, Richard J. Durbin and Dianne Feinstein to oppose the nominee. It’s clear he will not legislate their agenda for them, and is, therefore, not suitable to sit on the high court. So they accuse Judge Alito of being out of the mainstream in an effort to discredit him. If the “Fab Five” need a visual of what “out of the mainstream” really looks like, they need only look in the mirror.

Judge Alito is eminently qualified and should be confirmed. Let’s leave the circus to Ringling Bros.

TOM RAUB

Roanoke

‘Strictly neutral’?

Tulin Daloglu claims that “Secularism is not about atheism,” but rather, it is about government being “strictly neutral” (“European secularism,” Op-Ed, Tuesday).

As an example of such “neutrality,” she cites the French government’s decision “to ban all religious symbols from the public sphere.” Whose worldview does that enforce, if not the atheist’s (force being required to implement the ban)? How does such use of force differ substantively from a desire to ban pig and dog meat from the public market? Far from guaranteeing “freedom of conscience,” secularism is a competing worldview, as was made manifest recently by the European Union’s reported assertion that Catholics in Slovakia cannot refuse to perform abortions.

KEVIN O’NEILL

London

Keep traditional pensions

James Glassman can barely restrain himself over the passing of the defined benefit plan (“Traditional pensions: good riddance,” Commentary, Wednesday).

IBM is, of course, happy to rid itself of the burden of a defined benefit plan; it saves $500 million per year. Who do you think loses as a result? Not the employees, says Mr. Glassman. He assures us that the change “provides workers a stronger sense of responsibility and confidence in a comfortable retirement.”

As evidence for this assertion, he tells us that the average 401(k) balance is $91,000, a number that hardly provides me with any such confidence. Perhaps Mr. Glassman would be happy to retire and live for 20 to 30 years on that amount, even allowing additional years of work to retirement. Others may be less keen, especially the millions who are below the average, some substantially so.

Even worse, he wants to use this as a model for Social Security. As a result of what he amusingly refers to as “reforming” Social Security (it’s actually abolishing the system), he says “the U.S. government will have a sounder fiscal future.” No doubt. But what about the rest of us? What about our future? No wonder that the more the president talks about privatizing Social Security, the less people like it.

ED RADER

Alexandria

The next bold conservative idea

Jack Kemp’s brief history of the conservative ideas “movement” fairly reflects the evolution of successful conservative thinking (“A movement of ideas,” Commentary, yesterday). One can only hope that the movement’s search for “new ideas” will succeed “even if those ideas don’t comport with the conventional wisdom of the conservative politicians in power.” President Bush’s end goal of democracy in the Middle East is an example of such an idea.

This end goal in the context of the horrors of September 11 has opened the minds of many Americans to the potentially profound benefits of applying this bold but risky ideal to the real world. While Mr. Bush’s military means of achieving it are highly questionable, his rhetoric and end goal are nothing short of noble. But here lies the real test of the Bush administration’s real intentions.

If conservatives, as Mr. Kemp states, are truly “casting about for a bold agenda to captivate the imagination of the American people,” they need not look any further than blending Mr. Bush’s noble democratization to the intellectual genius of the late “Nobel Prize-winning economist … Robert Mundell.”

Mr. Mundell’s macroeconomic discovery of the “impossible triangle” provides humanity with a profound view of reality that clearly demonstrates the boldest idea yet — one capable of yielding the maximum freedoms and security for all humankind. Mr. Mundell keenly observed that the world cannot have the “free” flow of currency, currency “stability” and “independent” currency policy all at the same time. The best humanity could realistically hope for is any two of these three ideals at time. Economists rarely agree on anything, but no economist doubts the sanity of Mr. Mundell’s postulate.

The greater genius of Mr. Mundell’s realization can be seen when the basic elements of his trilemma (freedom, security and independence) are applied to any and all levels of global affairs — public health, education, trade, religion, arms control, genocide, hunger, environmental protection, counterterrorism, etc. Independent policies in any of these arenas force us to sacrifice our freedom, our security, or both. To maximize our most basic desire for freedom and need for security, we must eventually abandon the mythical ideal of independence. It simply doesn’t exist in a globally interdependent world.

After democratizing the Middle East, the next obvious move is the application of democratic principles worldwide … without using pre-emptive war as a means. The first stop should be the democratization of the United Nations. Only with the creation of an enforceable global bill of rights will the conservative movement spark progress toward the “more perfect union” that our Founding Fathers had envisioned — the universal idea of inalienable human rights and justice for all.

If conservative leaders fail to adopt this next bold idea, their movement will be taking the first step toward extinction. This is the same step that Democrats took years ago in failing to see the genius of our Founding Fathers’ desire to institute by law the enforcement of inalienable human rights.

CHUCK WOOLERY

Rockville

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