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Friday, January 13, 2006

Burden of Truth: Senator Edward Kennedy’s Achilles Heel

Judie Brown

Recently Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) wrote a scathing commentary for the Washington Post. He took Judge Samuel Alito to task and actually suggested that the judge had serious credibility problems. Some might find this humorous, considering the long record Senator Kennedy has of recreating truth to suit his personal notion of history. For example, how many different versions of the Mary Jo Kopechne story have you heard? Even the senator couldn’t get it straight for years.

At any rate, his verbal volleys at Judge Alito seem a bit hypocritical to me, even if I give the senator the benefit of the doubt. In his editorial, the Massachusetts senator quotes Judge Alito’s 1985 job application, which he suggests Alito is now attempting to walk away from. In fact the senator writes that when he and others met with Alito, he attempted to distance himself from his comments in that application; comments that are making the liberals a bit nervous. And the senator asks, “Is he [Alito] saying that he really did not mean what he said” twenty years ago?

Senator Kennedy has himself forgotten what he said in contradicting himself on the question of abortion. So why should he be shocked by the judge’s comments? It was in 1971 that Senator Kennedy wrote that abortion on demand “is not in accordance with the value which our civilization places on human life." Then Roe v. Wade was decided, and the senator’s position took a 180-degree turn. Does this mean he did not mean what he wrote in 1971?

It most certainly does. Since Roe v. Wade the senator has turned handstands for the culture of death, all in the name of freedom of choice. How dare he now question a judge who pandered to a potential employer by making statements the White House wanted to hear. If only the senator were that honorable when it came to the actual facts regarding the killing of preborn children.

Kennedy also claims that when Alito was a senior at Princeton, circa 1972, he was part of a group that resisted growing numbers of women, African Americans, Hispanics and disabled persons on campus to the point of blatant discrimination. He characterized such a radical viewpoint as “right wing.” Perhaps, but most of us who think rationally would have to say that such a negative response to changing times, if in fact it did occur some 34 years ago, was not only wrong-headed but downright stupid. We don’t know what Alito was thinking in 1972 or why he was involved in the “Concerned Alumni of Princeton” debacle, but apparently whatever it was, the senator is going to hold Alito to it even now. One has to suppose the senator does not believe people can ever mature, or admit to their errors, or simply deal with mistakes in an admirable way.

The senator should know all about that. The senator claims to be Catholic, but has spent an inordinate amount of time chastising the Catholic Church and in fact has described some of us as zealots. He has followed in the footsteps of his brother John, who chose while he was running for president to make it clear that he would never let his religion have any effect whatsoever on his decision-making as chief executive. God forbid that the moral law would be the foundation for someone’s leadership!

Senator Kennedy has not only acted foolishly in his dubious comments about religion, but has gotten bolder and spoken with increasingly crass disrespect as the years have gone by. So one could say that while Alito has grown a bit in character Kennedy has been in reverse for a long time.

The senator has written about why Alito should have recused himself in one case, and how Alito has pledged in past Senate confirmation hearings to be totally impartial. But of course the senator can find situations where Alito has not, in his opinion, been impartial. Now I looked up the words that seem to be part of the Kennedy ridicule-Alito-and-to-heck-with-the-facts lexicon, and it gave me a chuckle.

To recuse oneself, for example, means that a person would disqualify himself due to a conflict of interest. Not only should a judge who has such a conflict be honest enough to take himself out of the debate when such a situation occurs, but so should an elected official. And yet, in Senator Kennedy’s case, where there is constant conflict between what the Catholic Church teaches (his professed Church) and what, as he claims, his constituents demand of him, he will side with the culture of death every time rather than removing himself from the situation by putting the truth ahead of reelection. Does it not seem strange that now he is accusing Judge Alito of not removing himself from a case due to his investment of money when Senator Kennedy refuses to remove himself from support for abortion even though his faith should mean more to him than power or votes?

And then there’s the matter of impartiality. To be impartial, one must treat any question with balance, showing no favoritism to one perspective or the other. Well, if Senator Kennedy were impartial and fair-minded in his public statements about interest groups with which he is personally at odds, he would never stoop to using pejorative terms to describe what they do. Further, if the good senator were honest and fair, he would not dismiss the Ten Commandments as though they were nothing more than ten recommendations.

If there ever was an editorial that reeked of hypocrisy, disingenuous carping and superciliousness, the Washington Post’s publication of Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s “Alito’s Credibility Problem” is it. When the writer of such a column is guilty of creating scandal in his Church and emoting disdain for the intrinsic value of individual human beings, it seems unthinkable that he would wage verbal war on another member of the legal profession, who unlike him, has made not the first comment using language that smacks of cheekiness and downright contempt.

  • (Judie Brown is president and co-founder of American Life League, the nation's largest Catholic pro-life educational grassroots organization. She is a recognized expert on the sanctity of human life, member of the Pontifical Academy for Life and the author of three books.)

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