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FIRST-PERSON: A hearing not soon forgotten

WASHINGTON (BP)–The Senate Judiciary Committee hearings for Judge Samuel Alito were something I will not soon forget as an eyewitness. They were filled with some of the best and some of the worst of human behavior.

The Democrat members behaved shamelessly and disgracefully as they attacked, accused, berated and sullied the reputation of a fine man. Their attack-dog tactics were a national embarrassment. After the opening statements and the first round of questions, it was obvious they were not interested in determining the judge’s qualifications for his position. They were determined to destroy the man.

Fortunately, the Republican members of the committee were ready for the attacks. It was obvious early on that they had two jobs. They had to fulfill their obligation to make sure Judge Alito was qualified to serve as an associate justice of the Supreme Court, and they had to counter the lies and half-truths spewed out by the Democrat inquisitors. They met both of these tasks with admirable skill and restraint. By the end of the hearings, it was obvious President Bush nominated a superb candidate for the Supreme Court, and it was obvious the Democrat attacks were mean-spirited attempts at character assassination.

I also will always remember the poise of Alito and his family during those long, grueling hours. Judge Alito answered practically all of the questions put to him, even if the same questions had been asked time and time again. In spite of repeated attempts to undermine him, he maintained his composure and answered the same questions politely and respectfully. His family, as well, was a marvelous example of civility and poise. I was especially moved by Mrs. Alito’s expression of peaceful confidence. It was obvious that she was fully supportive of her husband and that she had absolute confidence in him. The entire family’s composure under those incredibly trying circumstances was a highlight of the entire week. They made me proud to be an American.

Judge Alito has shown that he has all of the qualifications anyone could possibly want in a Supreme Court justice. He will be an impartial judge, making his decisions based on his understanding of the intent of our founding documents. Will he always decide the way I would want him to? Probably not, but I am confident that he will make his decisions based on what he understands the law to dictate, not on what he thinks ought to be done. I can live with that. I’m not so sure some of our Democrat senators can, however.

The hearings have also brought me to another realization — one that comforts me but should worry liberals. It seems certain to me that all future Supreme Court candidates nominated by Republicans will be of the same type as Alito and new Chief Justice John Roberts. The Democrats’ own tactics will assure this. I am convinced the Democrat members of the Judiciary Committee were sending a message to any future Supreme Court nominees: All future nominees must be prepared for a grinding, abusive, no-holds barred inquisition. What these Democrat senators have failed to realize is that their tactics guarantee that only the toughest, most confident men and women will be willing to submit themselves to that process.

While in the past we have seen supposedly conservative candidates take their places on the Supreme Court and then move rapidly to the left, the kind of candidates we will see in the future will be much less likely to be so disposed to such shifts. Future candidates will be hardened in their convictions and confident of their judicial philosophy, because they are the only ones who will be willing to go through the confirmation fires, confident of their survival. As long as Democrats persist in these attack-dog tactics, conservatives can feel even more confident that the men and women they support for future Supreme Court openings will not disappoint them after they are confirmed.

The Alito hearings confirm that our country is making a turn to the right. It is halting and imperfect, but it is definitely a right turn. Liberals are fighting with every dirty tactic they can muster because they are desperate, and conservatives are taking the high ground. The conservative movement in our nation is fielding some of the finest men and women we have ever seen, and they are moving into positions of service throughout our country. Our families, communities and nation will be stronger because of them. There is still much to be done, but with God’s help we will continue the correction that will bring His blessing on our land.
Duke attended parts of the Alito hearings in the Hart Senate Office Building. He is vice president for public policy and research of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

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  • Barrett Duke