- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 6, 2006

The last of three excerpts from the book “Winning Right: Campaign Politics And Conservative Policies”:

Senator Lindsey Graham (R- SC) had been a hero in the Roberts hearings, and as the third day of the Alito hearings was winding down he donned his hero’s cape again. Graham is largely conservative, but his independent streak makes him unpredictable. He is a reformer. And he is a genuinely good and decent human being who works hard to resist the easy allure of harsh partisanship in an increasingly polarized Senate.

He frustrated a number of his colleagues and me when he joined thirteen of his colleagues in the so-called Gang of Fourteen to broker a deal that fended off implementation of the constitutional, or “nuclear” option of allowing judicial nominees to be confirmed by the Senate with a simple majority rather than the sixty votes required to break a filibuster.

But it reflects his desire to foster a less partisan and polarizing environment in the Senate and to get back to a time when people could set aside partisan differences to work things out in a spirit of comity.

Graham was truly disgusted by the actions of some of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate and their effort to tarnish Alito’s sterling reputation with veiled inferences that he might harbor feelings of racial prejudice. He decided to put their innuendo right out there on the table, as the hearing transcript shows:

Graham: If you don’t mind, the suspicious nature that I have is that you may be saying that because you want to get on the Supreme Court; that you’re disavowing this now because it doesn’t look good. And really what I would look at to believe you’re not — and I’m going to be very honest with you — is: How have you lived your life? Are you really a closet bigot?

Alito: I’m not any kind of a bigot, I’m not.

Graham: No, sir, you’re not! And you know why I believe that? Not because you just said it — but that’s a good enough reason, because you seem to be a decent, honorable man.

At this point, the lips of Martha Alito, hearing someone say what surely she had been thinking for the past two days, began to quiver. Eventually, the tears came. As she was seated over her husband’s right shoulder and he was facing Graham to his left, she was squarely on camera the whole time.

I was unaware of it all until my BlackBerry vibrated with a message from Rachel Brand, which said, “I assume you all noticed that Mrs. Alito just walked out crying.”

I had not noticed, but I got up and left the hearing room and walked down the hall to the VP’s Dirksen Office.

Martha Alito was in the private office, her feet up on the window behind the desk, being consoled by a family member, who whispered to me, “She’s okay.”

At the next break I went to work the reporters in the hallway again, and they were abuzz over the episode.

“Why was she so upset?”

“Look, I’ve known Judge Alito for about three months, and it’s been hard for me to sit in that hearing room and listen to them question his integrity and smear his character. I can only imagine what it’s been like for his wife, and when Senator Graham rightly called the Democrats’ hand on it, I’m sure it resonated with her.”

By the time I got back to the VP’s office, Martha was standing next to the judge and seemed fine.

I gave her a hug. “You’re a good person and they’re bad people,” I said. “And that’s good for us.” She smiled.

It was one of those moments that captured the attention of the American public, and they understood right away that the way Alito was being treated by some of the Judiciary Committee Democrats was why so many good people don’t want to serve in important public positions.

The Democrats’ near- uniform opposition to Alito’s confirmation was disgraceful. By every ordinary standard — experience, temperament, integrity, and intellect — Samuel Alito is one of the most qualified jurists ever to be put on the Supreme Court. Years from now when a Democratic president puts forward a qualified liberal jurist, I hope the media remember who changed the standards when Republicans — who voted with few exceptions for Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, a former American Civil Liberties Union counsel and a chief counsel to Ted Kennedy, respectively — oppose the nomination.

For members of the confirmation team, our faith in him and John Roberts has already begun to bear out, as the Roberts Court seems to be one with fewer dissents and concurring opinions and one with joint opinions that reflect the vast majority, if not always all, of the members of the Court. In addition to being a brilliant jurist, the chief has a way with people, and the country will benefit for generations from a Court that issues rulings that are clearly written and enjoy the broad support of its justices.

And Justice Alito has proven to be a thoughtful, careful jurist who applies the law as written by legislatures or our Constitution, rather than seeking to make new law from the bench. Their combined impact will shape the Court for generations.

Ed Gillespie, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, is founder and co-chairman of Quinn Gillespie & Associates.

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