The New York Times profile of of Samuel Alito today reads more like a popstar profile from "Teen Beat!" or one of the other teenage fanzines - "win a dream date with Sam!" He's got "common sense" and a "straightforward style!" Learn about his "surprising choice!" He's "courageous," but even his "flourishes" are "extremely practical." Sure, he blew his biggest case (against the Mob) and he's the guy who brought us Michael Chertoff, but never mind: Writer Daniel Wakin sez "I heart Alito - and you will too!"
So what makes Sammy run? It's possible to read between the lines in the Times piece and come to a very different conclusion than the Times does about its latest heartthrob:
After an F.B.I. agent was shot in a motel room while interviewing a suspect in 1987, the newly appointed United States attorney for New Jersey had to pick a prosecutor to handle the trial. He made a surprising choice: himself.
The trial represented a rare moment for a lawyer who had spent much of his professional life buried in briefs. But in another way, it revealed what many say were the hallmarks of his stewardship of the office: modesty, a straightforward style, common sense and, in baseball jargon, good pitch selection.
Mr. Alito, after all, chose his moment wisely, said Lawrence S. Lustberg, the defense lawyer in the case. The case was short, lasting less than two weeks, and not terribly complicated ...
Let's see - it was a "surprising" choice to personally try a "short" and "not terribly complicated" case with a lot of visibility, when you have no experience or reputation as a trial attorney? Or ... it was an obvious choice: You're a "briefs" kind of lawyer who now runs an office full of litigators, thanks to your political patrons. You need some good publicity, pronto, so you take on an easy case and win an easy conviction. "Common sense"? Yes, if you're ambitious. "Modesty"? I don't think so.
And Mr. Alito won a conviction.
And aren't you just breathless with surprise?
The Times article mentions - but glosses over - accusations that Alito was slow to handle an out-of-control prosecutor who sent phony death threats to herself and the judge in an attempt to influence a case. And it mentions Accenturo et al, a two-year-long trial with 20 defendants that ended in an acquittal after only two days of deliberations. But the tone overall is breathless stuff: the "open-door policy," his "self-effacing" ways, and the picture of a man who "was more dedicated to the law than garnering attention."
Not quoted in this profile is Alito's Mom, who said in her now-famous quote, "Of course he's against abortion." Nor are there any ruminations on what personality characteristics might allow someone to rule in favor of strip-searching a 10-year-old girl when you only have a warrant for her father, or limiting Congress' right to control machine guns (not an "activist judge," eh?) Wakin wasn't curious about Alito's ruling that schools can't prohibit harrassive speech based on race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation, despite the opportunities for continued childhood misery that it created.
There was no mention of the fact that Alito's consistently right-wing views - extreme and "activist" - have served his career well under Presidents like Reagan and Bush. Is it "common sense" to rule against Congress on machine guns, and against schools trying to control hate speech? If you read the New York Times, the answer's yes - and he's "dreamy," too. (OK, that word wasn't in the profile - but it might as well have been.)
One of Alito's greatest moves, says the article, was bringing in Michael Chertoff as his deputy. Why was this such a good idea? Because, says the article, Chertoff was a "brilliant attorney." Meaning ... what? That Alito wasn't, apparently. Alito may have gotten himself a good lawyer to handle the office's actual work, but the rest of us eventually got the same Chertoff who explained after Katrina that "you only mobilize the Guard in 24 hours for really big emergencies." Thanks, Sam.
And another thing - why all this talk about how different Alito is from Scalia in his personal deportment? I haven't met either gentleman, but I can only conclude that what people are saying is, "He may be as extreme a right-winger as Scalia, but personally he's not a total dick like Antonin." Sure, it sounds like Alito's a nice enough person personally - that is, if you consider someone who allows the stripsearching of 10-year-old girls "nice." But since when is "not being a complete asshole" qualification for the highest court in the land?
None of this need bother the readers of the New York Times. Remember, he's "straightforward," with "common sense" and "modesty" who is "at heart, extremely practical." Sam Alito: Today's pinup from the New York Times.