"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)
Thursday, January 12, 2006
On Dec. 1, Knight Ridder's Washington bureau sent a story analyzing the record of Judge Samuel Alito to our 32 daily newspapers and to the more than 300 papers that subscribe to the Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service. Written by Stephen Henderson, Knight Ridder's Supreme Court correspondent, and Howard Mintz of the San Jose Mercury News, the story began:
"During his 15 years on the federal bench, Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito has worked quietly but resolutely to weave a conservative legal agenda into the fabric of the nation's laws."
Assisted by Washington bureau researcher Tish Wells, Henderson and Mintz spent nearly a month reading all of Alito's 311 published opinions, which are available in a commercial database or in the archives of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, where Alito has sat for 15 years.
Henderson and Mintz cataloged the cases by category - employment discrimination, criminal justice, immigration and so on - and analyzed each one with help from attorneys who participated on both sides of the cases and experts in those fields of law. They interviewed legal scholars and other judges, many of them admirers of Alito.
They concluded that, "although Alito's opinions are rarely written with obvious ideology, he's seldom sided with a criminal defendant, a foreign national facing deportation, an employee alleging discrimination or consumers suing big business."
You might find this neither surprising nor controversial. Alito, after all, was nominated by a president who said that his ideal Supreme Court justices were Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, the high court's most reliably conservative members.
You'd be wrong.
Within days, the Senate Republican Conference circulated a lengthy memo headlined, "Knight Ridder Misrepresents Judge Alito's 15-year record."
Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, a leader in the Alito confirmation process, sent a letter to the editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer, a Knight Ridder paper, denouncing the story as "neither objective nor accurate." The Inquirer published it on Dec. 7.
The White House offered an opinion piece by Jeffrey N. Wasserstein, a former Alito law clerk who identified himself as a Democrat and said his former boss "is capable of setting aside any personal biases he may have when he judges." Knight Ridder/Tribune distributed it to all of our papers and its subscribers on Dec. 11.
A conservative columnist, whose glowing tribute to Alito is now featured in television advertisements supporting the nominee, declared the Knight Ridder story "illiterate."
See what happens? Call a conservative a conservative, and someone's bound to start crying. You kinda have to wonder, what is it they're so ashamed of?