Lauer on Alito: "Let's Face it - He is an Ultra-Conservative"
By all appearances, Lauer was headed for a genial stroll in the park with affable former GOP Sen. Fred Thompson, in to discuss the Alito hearings. Thompson had been the successful 'sherpa' for John Roberts in his confirmation process.
Matt got off to an even-handed start, noting that from their opening statements it seemed clear that most senators had already made up their minds. Lauer asked whether the confirmation process was really all about giving senators a chance to make partisan speeches.
Things segued swimmingly, as Lauer quoted from Alito's opening statement: "judges should be able to learn and change their minds." In support of that notion, Lauer cited Arlen Specter to the effect that, in the past, partisans have been surprised by the way their nominees have voted once on the bench.
Lauer even helpfully offered the example of David Souter, who turned out to be a much more liberal justice than George H.W. ever imagined when he nominated him. Thompson alluded to a similar situation, that of Eisenhower calling his nomination of Earl Warren his "biggest mistake."
Things began to change when Lauer quoted this statement made by Alito when applying for a job in the Reagan administration in 1985:
"I am particularly proud of my contributions in recent cases in which the government has argued in the Supreme Court that racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion."
Asked Lauer: "Why shouldn't a fair-minded person like yourself assume that will impact any future rulings he makes on the Supreme Court?"
Thompson gave a solid response. While acknowledging that everyone comes to the bench with certain preconceptions, Thompson depicted setting them aside as "the very essence of what a judge has to do." He continued: "It's different from your personal opinions, it's different from your position as an advocate."
Thompson concluded with this very telling argument: "If you have a 15-year track record of doing that, you're in pretty good shape."
It was at that moment that Lauer could no longer restrain his liberal leanings, as, seemingly from left-field, he burst out with this:
"Let's face it. He is an ultra-conservative and his track record on the bench [speaking over Thompson]. . . he goes to the right on key issues."Thompson demurred: "He's not an ultra-conservative. He's a conservative in a conservative mainstream, just like Democratic appointees have been liberal in a liberal mainstream."
Today then played the "diversity" card, displaying a graphic indicating that with Alito's confirmation a great majority of the court would be composed of white men who had attended Harvard or Yale, with Catholics forming a majority. Asked Lauer: "What does that say about the court's ability to rule on behalf of the diverse population of this country?"
If Lauer and his liberal confreres truly harbor such racialist views, why was it that Senate Democrats subjected Clarence Thomas to the ugliest, most virulent personal attack in the history of the confirmation process?