In his opening statement in the Samuel Alito confirmation hearing today, Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl did his best to preempt charges that Alito will come to the court with a conservative agenda. Turning to Alito, Kyl said: "Even in your early 20s, it appears you were focused on the law as an independent pursuit rather than using law to influence political ends."
The nominee might have been surprised to hear himself described that way. In his now-infamous 1985 application for a political appointment in the Justice Department, Alito described his early interest in the law this way: "In college, I developed a deep interest in constitutional law, motivated in large part by disagreements with Warren Court decisions, particularly in the areas of criminal procedure, the Establishment Clause and reapportionment. I discovered the writings of [conservative Yale law professor] Alexander Bickel advocating judicial restraint, and it was largely for this reason that I decided to go to Yale Law School."
Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.