Obama has picked his Supreme Court nominee. I read the Chicago Tribune piece this morning on Sonia Sotomayer and was immediately asking: "What are her politics?" (like I don't know). The piece was so positive and beaming- like a high school newspaper touting the merits of the lead in the school play. Even the headline was juvenile: "Plucky Manhattan jurist Sotomayer finds spotlight appealing, even under brightest lights"
Here's what I learned in the piece:
The Manhattan-born Sotomayor's humble upbringing has shaped her personality — vibrant and colorful, and so different from the Bronx projects where she grew up in a working-class existence in a home with a drab yellow kitchen. She is a food-loving baseball buff as likely to eat a hot dog at a street corner stand as she is to sit down for a lengthy meal at a swanky Manhattan restaurant.
Sotomayor describes herself as "extraordinarily intense and very fun-loving."
She's also heralded as a hero for presumably single-handedly bringing "baseball back to the nation" during the 1995 players' strike.
She's just like Obama! She's just like one of us! Yea! Hurrah! What a great, fun lady- I'd like to have a drink with her.
Shoddy, WORTHLESS journalism. I'm left with no idea of what her politics are-- the word liberal, the word left, the word ideology for that matter-never used in the piece. As far as I can tell she's a centrist.
Contrast that piece with what the Tribune (below) wrote about Bush nominee Samuel Alito where the word "conservative" is used to describe the judge eight times- it's even in the headline! "Alito has a record of steady conservatism, reputation for civility". We are left with absolutely no doubt that Alito will rule like a conservative ideologue- even those at his high school say so!
Here's the article from the Chicago Tribune Oct 31, 2005 (day of the annoucement)
COPYRIGHT 2005 Chicago Tribune
Byline: Andrew Zajac WASHINGTON _ The 1972 Princeton University yearbook contains this self-authored entry for senior Samuel Alito: "Sam intends to go law school and eventually to warm a seat on the Supreme Court."
It was partly collegiate whimsy, but Alito was not alone in this high estimation of himself; his faculty adviser also saw in him a distinguished judicial career. And since then, his professional life as a lawyer and judge has been one long march forward for the son of an immigrant who is known for his unflinching but low-volume conservatism.
The 55-year-old federal appeals court judge nominated Monday by President Bush to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is perceived as a steady conservative with a pedigree as a Reagan-era government lawyer and a reputation for civility.
He holds in many respects the precise kinds of credentials that conservatives found lacking in Bush's initial pick, White House counsel Harriet Miers. Alito is a son of the Ivy League, Yale Law, a former federal appeals court clerk, and a longstanding member of the so-called judicial monastery that Bush earlier said he wanted to reach beyond to shape the court.
While Alito easily won confirmation to the federal appeals court in Newark, N.J., in 1990, this confirmation hearing promises to be a passionate fight over issues like abortion, where Alito has favored strong restrictions. It is one of many issues where Alito leans rightward, long endearing him to conservatives, but sure to inflame liberals during the confirmation process.
Until now, Alito has had an accomplished and largely non-controversial career. But because he is replacing O'Connor, the court's swing vote on many social issues, Alito's opinions will be combed line by line for deeper meaning, his speeches examined and his life story told and retold.
And he does have one apparent conflict-of-interest on his record. In 2002, a plaintiff complained after Alito issued an opinion favoring The Vanguard Group Inc. while owning hundreds of thousands of dollars of the firm's mutual funds. At the time, Alito said he believed he had done nothing improper.
But he had told the Senate Judiciary Committee at his confirmation hearing a dozen years earlier that he would not rule on cases involving Vanguard.
Alito was nominated to the bench by the first President Bush in a batch of judicial candidates that included David Souter, who was under consideration for the appeals court slot that would serve as his springboard to the Supreme Court.
Now, in the ideological calculus of the high court, conservatives are betting on Alito, as O'Connor's replacement, to steer the court to the right.
Alito has been dubbed "Scalito" because of a perceived ideological resemblance to Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the most conservative members of the court, who, coincidentally, also was born in Trenton.
The parallels are not complete, since, among other things, Alito's manner and bearing are mild, particularly when compared to the often combative Scalia. But Alito's lengthy track record on the bench is consistently conservative, though friends and associates insist it has not been compiled through the pursuit of an ideological agenda.
Friends describe Alito as reserved but friendly, with a dry, self-deprecating sense of humor. In introducing his two children after being nominated by President Bush on Monday, Alito described them as the "pride of my life," adding that "they have made sure that being a judge has never gone to my head."
"He literally does not have an enemy in the world, unless it's some of the criminals he's prosecuted," said Charles Cooper, a Washington attorney who worked with Alito at the Justice Department. Alito also served as U.S. attorney in Newark before becoming a judge.
For all of his likability and self-effacement, Alito is not without ambition.
In a brief phone conversation Monday, Alito's 90-year-old mother, Rose, said her son was let down at not being nominated last month when Bush picked Miers. "He wanted it, definitely," Rose Alito said, adding that she could tell by "his attitude, he was disappointed" at being overlooked.
Alito grew up in a household that prized learning, with both of his parents trained as teachers. His sole sibling, Rosemary Alito, 52, is a well-regarded employment lawyer in New Jersey.
His late father, Samuel Alito Sr., was the first director of the New Jersey Office of Legislative Services, which provides staffing and research for the state legislature.
Born in Italy, the elder Alito was a skilled researcher with a reputation as an honest broker amid partisan statehouse turf fights, recalled Albert Porroni, the current director of the office. Samuel Alito Sr. was also an expert in the arcana of drawing legislative district borders, and his mastery of the subject in a federal court case would eventually give his son's legal career a boost.
Alito attended suburban public schools in Hamilton Township, a middle-class enclave outside Trenton.
At Steinert High School, Alito was valedictorian, editor of the school paper, a member of the state finalist debate team and a member of the track team.
He was a teacher's dream, tearing through Steinbeck, Hemingway and Dickens and requiring additional assignments to stay challenged, said Elaine Tarr, his 10th grade English teacher. "He never ever did anything slipshod. Never," said Tarr. "If it required a Piper Cub, he'd give you a Boeing 747."
Alito seemed preternaturally free of adolescent angst and he wasn't caught up in the social turmoil of the times. "He was always very rational, very emotionally in control," Tarr said. Even then, Tarr said, "I think he had a conservative point of view."
At Princeton, Alito was a debater and honor student who used his ability to read Italian to help craft a senior thesis on Italy's constitutional court.
While many of his classmates were caught up in protests and challenges to authority typical of the Vietnam era, the clean-cut Alito was a reserved deliberate and focused on his studies, said Walter Murphy, his faculty adviser.
"He pondered. He looked at the pros. He looked at the cons," recalled Murphy, who recognized judicial temperament when he saw it. "I made a prediction" to him, said Murphy, now retired and living in New Mexico. "One day Sam was going to be a judge.
" Following graduation from Princeton, Alito entered Yale Law School and joined the Army Reserve. He left Yale with a law degree in 1975 and stayed in the Reserve until 1980, when he was honorably discharged with the rank of captain.
Alito began his legal career as a clerk to federal appeals court judge Leonard Garth and subsequently served as an assistant U.S. attorney in New Jersey before moving to the Justice Department.
Garth, a centrist Republican appointed by Richard Nixon, said he selected Alito out of perhaps 400 applicants in part because he remembered the thoughtful testimony of the elder Sam Alito in a reapportionment case. "The name struck a bell," Garth, now 85 and partly retired, said in a recent telephone interview. "I knew I wanted to interview him."
"I've had over 80 (clerks), and he pretty much tops the list," Garth said, adding that Alito also tops the list of judges in the circuit. "I think he is the brightest member of my court," Garth said.
Like others close to Alito, Garth said he has an economy of style, both in speaking and writing. "He's very reserved," Garth said. "He doesn't say anything unnecessary."
In a May interview with the Newark Star-Ledger, Alito described his sense of judicial boundaries. "Judges should be judges," he told the newspaper. "They shouldn't be legislators, they shouldn't be administrators."
Alito's wife, Martha, is a librarian. The couple's daughter, Laura, is a high school student and well-regarded competitive swimmer. Their son, Philip, is a college student.
An ardent fan of the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Phillies, Alito attended a Phillies' fantasy camp and has displayed a baseball card of himself in a uniform. An applicant for a law clerkship was startled by a nearly life-size photo of Phillies Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt in Alito's chambers.
"He looked at me and said, `Do you know who that is?,'" recalled Cheryl Stanton.
Stanton blanked on the name but remembered that "he's one of the greatest third basemen of all time."
"He seemed tickled that I knew that," said Stanton, who was hired and worked for Alito in 1997 and 1998 and now is in private practice.
Like John Roberts Jr., who was sworn in as chief justice on Sept. 29, Alito earned his political and legal bona fides in President Reagan's Justice Department.
From 1981 until 1985, he was an assistant to the solicitor general, writing briefs, doing research and trying a dozen cases before the Supreme Court.
"The main thing that drew me to him was that he was a beautiful writer, not just the clarity but the aptness of expression," said Charles Fried, who served as solicitor general from 1985 through 1989 and now is a professor at Harvard Law School. The solicitor general's office represents the administration before the Supreme Court.Later, Alito spent two years in Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, where he provided legal advice to various administration agencies.
From 1987 until 1990, he served as U.S. Attorney in Newark, earning plaudits for his pursuit of mobsters and white-collar criminals.
When nominated to the appellate bench by the first President Bush in early 1990, Alito was enthusiastically endorsed by New Jersey senators Frank Lautenberg and Bill Bradley, both Democrats, and was approved by a unanimous voice vote in a Democrat-controlled Senate.
Bradley told the Judiciary Committee that Alito excelled in every legal job he'd held and inspired colleagues in the U.S. Attorney's office "with a low-key sense of professionalism." Bradley also said that he was pleased "to back him 100 percent.
Right-leaning groups are unabashed in their endorsement of many of Alito's rulings in the 15 years since then, particularly on religious expression.
"He has always ranked near the top for us," said Jan LaRue, chief counsel for the Washington-based Concerned Women for America, an organization whose stated goal is to protect and promote biblical values.
Among the decisions she cited: Alito's support for a Pennsylvania law requiring a woman to inform her husband before an abortion; his decision upholding Christmas displays on public property if secular and other symbols are there, too; and his support for an evangelical children's group that wanted to hold meetings in a public school.
Alito associates say that while he frequently comes down on the conservative side in his rulings, he does not do so as the result of an agenda. For example, Alito, unlike some federal judges, is not known for making a point of picking conservative clerks.
"My politics would be perceived as far to the left of his," said Mitu Gulati, who clerked for Alito in 1996-97 and described his one-time boss as "the fairest person I've ever met."
Gulati, a visiting professor at Duke University, and others who see a more complex jurist than merely a reliably conservative thinker, point to two episodes they say demonstrate Alito's independence.
In 2003, Alito headed a judicial committee that pushed to allow lawyers to bolster their cases by citing unpublished opinions issued by judges. "He's not a believer in the imperial judiciary," Gulati said.
Clark Lombardi, who clerked for Alito in 1999 and 2000, said that following the law sometimes will lead Alito to places that would disappoint some conservatives.
In 2000, for example, Alito dissented in a case in which the 3rd Circuit ruled against a phone company worker who asked for more time to pursue an employment discrimination case.
"In interpreting a statute ... we are not free to disregard Congress' approach in favor of one that seems better to us," he wrote in arguing that Congress intended to give grievants like the plaintiff, Madhat Zubi, four years instead of two years to pursue their claims.
Nan Aron, executive director of the left-leaning Alliance for Justice, finds none of this comforting. "He is a known ideologue who places many of our rights in great jeopardy," said Aron.
Aron pointed out that Alito appears to have a restrictive view of abortion rights and said that his dissent in a 1997 case, in which he argued that Congress did not have the power to restrict machine gun sales under the Constitution's Commerce Clause, suggests a limited view of the legislature's power to remedy social ills.
Jurisprudence aside, there is one known occasion on which Alito has been accused of an ethical lapse. In 2002, he issued an opinion in a 3-0 ruling dismissing a case brought by a woman suing Vanguard Group. At the time, Alito held between $390,000 and $930,000 of Vanguard's mutual funds, according to news accounts.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the case came before Alito due to computer error.
"The case should not have been sent to him," Perino said.
But Perino could not explain why Alito continued to participate in the case once he was aware that it involved Vanguard. "That's all I have for you," Perino said, adding that Alito has a record of unquestioned integrity.
Alito was quoted at the time as saying that he did not think he had a conflict because Vanguard managed $600 billion and the $170,000 at stake in the case was trivial by comparison.
In a questionnaire he filled out for the Senate Judiciary Committee when he was nominated to the bench in 1990, Alito had listed his Vanguard holdings and wrote that "I would ... disqualify myself from any cases involving the Vanguard companies ... ." ___
(Chicago Tribune correspondents Mike Dorning and Cam Simpson contributed to this report.) ___ (c) 2005, Chicago Tribune. Visit the Chicago Tribune on the Internet at http://www.chicagotribune.com/ Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
Why am I suprised? Why? There are other obvious problems when comparing the two pieces, a dissertation could be written....
Do you think the MSM will pick up on the video of Sotomayer saying that the courts are "where policy is made"-- do you think? Yeah, I don't think so either.