Tuesday, November 15, 2005

He's Smarter Than This....

Isn't he?

Samuel Alito said, when applying for a job with the Reagan Administration, "the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion." He described that as a strong, personal belief.

He now defends himself by contending that when he made that statement he was "an advocate seeking a job" and according to unnamed Senators now "thinks he's a wiser person" with "a better grasp and understanding about constitutional rights and liberties." Those two claims are not necessarily inconsistent, but there is tension between them.

If Alito's contention that his statement reflects his advocacy as a job seeker but not his actual belief, he is expressing that he would lie to get a job. If his original statement accurately reflects his views, but he is trying to avoid admitting that he still holds that view by suggesting that his past, unequivocal statement on abortion rights was something other than a true statement of his beliefs, he is lying about why he made the original statement. How is this good for him? He's setting himself up for a Perry Mason moment before the Senate - "Were you lying then, or are you lying now?"

As for the Senators' assertions, are they really stating that Alito has approached them in private and expressed that he does think that the Constitution protects the right to abortion, they should be more forthcoming. That would be a highly relevant fact which should be made public. If Alito has not explicitly retreated from his earlier statement, they have no business suggesting that he has.

Further, as I said, there is tension between Alito's claim and the Senators' assertions - if Alito did not believe what he said, but was lying or exaggerating to get a job, his better developed wisdom and sense of Constitutional jurisprudence has no bearing on his position on abortion rights - as he would have had to believe at the time he denounced Roe v Wade that there in fact was some level of constitutional protection of abortion rights.

This isn't (or shouldn't be) part of a litmus test on "choice". We've previously had nominees on both sides of the abortion debate who, although never stating their positions, were expected to advocate for one side or the other, and in fact have done so. The issue, at least to me, is the explanation, which does reflect on the credibility of the witness. (And yes, he is smarter than this, but then even smart people sometimes trip over their own two feet.)

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