- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 12, 2006

Customers at Steve’s Barbershop in downstate Illinois differ in their opinions of Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr., with much of that difference running along party lines.

Democrats don’t like him, while Republicans “say he is the greatest thing since sliced bread,” said barbershop owner Steve Bainter, who added that the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings this week on Judge Alito’s nomination have remained on the television at his business almost continuously.

That partisan split seems to be the case not only across the Midwest, but in much of the country.

On radio talk shows nationwide there has been a similar divergence of response based on political ideology, said Michael Harrison, editor and publisher of Talkers Magazine, which covers the radio talk industry.

“On the conservative shows, the callers talk about how mean, partisan and vicious the Democrats are and how they caused Martha Alito (the judge’s wife) to get so upset she left the hearing room,” Mr. Harrison said. “On the liberal shows, the callers say Alito has no respect for civil rights and women’s rights. So there is a complete schism.”

In his heavily Democratic home state of New Jersey, however, Judge Alito is enjoying some bipartisan support, where 1.5 million Americans of Italian descent make up the largest ethnic group.

“Last Friday, there was a rally held by the National Italian American Foundation in Jersey City in support of the judge that was attended by Democrats and Republicans,” said Tom Wilson, Republican state chairman.

Among the New Jersey Democrats in Judge Alito’s corner were former Rep. Frank Guarini and former Gov. Brendan Byrne. Rutgers University law professor Ronald Chen, who recently was nominated by Democratic Gov.-elect Jon Corzine to be state public advocate “has publicly come out in support of Judge Alito, too,” Mr. Wilson said.

Italian-American groups around the country, a pivotal ethnic vote that is especially strong in heavily Democratic states such as New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, also were lobbying heavily for Judge Alito.

“We’re proud of him as the son of Italian immigrants, but we got involved because there were some innuendos said about his Italian ancestry that he would be weak on crime because he’s Italian,” that angered Italian Americans, said John Marino, managing director of government relations and public policy at the National Italian American Foundation.

Mr. Marino said his organization, which is nonpartisan, has been coordinating events in half a dozen Northeast states on Judge Alito’s behalf that have drawn bipartisan support.

“The feedback we’re getting has been almost entirely positive,” except for Italian Americans angry over the way liberal Democrats such as Sens. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Charles E. Schumer of New York have treated Judge Alito, he said.

“Some people think Kennedy and Schumer didn’t handle him so kindly.”

Barbershop owner Mr. Bainter also said that he and his customers weren’t always pleased at the Democrats’ handling of Judge Alito.

Asked if anyone in his shop thinks Judge Alito harmed his chances for confirmation by saying he could be willing to revisit Roe v. Wade — the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion — Mr. Bainter said, “No. [Democrats on the Judiciary Committee] beat that into the ground, and that issue already has been beaten into the ground.”

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