Alito runs from his record

Under questioning from senators, the nominee distances himself from things he has done and said.

Published January 10, 2006 4:41PM (EST)

Samuel Alito has a long track record as a lawyer and as a federal appellate judge, and you might expect him to rely on that record as he tries to make the case for why he should be a Supreme Court justice. You might expect that, but you'd be wrong. The Senate Judiciary Committee has just begun questioning Alito, and already the nominee has run repeatedly from statements and activities in his past.

Asked about a 1985 job application in which he said that he "personally" believed "very strongly" that the "Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion," Alito said that his statements in the job application accurately reflected his views at the time but insisted that he'd be able to keep an "open mind" about abortion if he's confirmed as a Supreme Court justice.

Asked about his membership in Concerned Alumni of Princeton -- a group that opposed adding more women and minorities to the student mix at Ivy League schools -- Alito said he didn't remember joining the group, despite the fact that he remembered it well enough in 1985 to feature his membership on that now-infamous job application.

Asked about his decision to hear a case involving the Vanguard mutual fund company after promising the Senate Judiciary Committee that he'd recuse himself from any cases involving the company, Alito said that he wished that he'd handled the matter differently and "just didn't focus on the issue of recusal when it came up."

And asked about his statement, again in that 1985 job application, suggesting that he believed in the "supremacy of the executive branch," Alito said it was an "inapt phrase" that didn't accurately reflect what he actually meant at the time. "I didn't mean that," he said, "and I wouldn't say that today."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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