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It appears Senate Democrats have given up the ship they hoped would sink President Bush’s nomination of Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The party’s alleged heavy hitters on the Senate Judiciary Committee took a belligerent tone in their initial questioning of Judge Alito, attempting to depict him as a right-wing fanatic. But their efforts were futile.

They attempted to show that Judge Alito’s association with a conservative Princeton alumni group proved that he was some kind of whacko.

Sen. Ted Kennedy said during the hearings that Judge Alito’s “affiliation with an organization that fought the admission of women into Princeton calls into question his appreciation for the need for full equality in this country.”

But this was typical empty bluster from Mr. Kennedy, who is a strange choice to carry the torch of integrity for his party.

The folks at the Federalist Patriot nailed it when, referring to Sen. Kennedy, they illustrated what Judge Alito is not: “It’s not as if Judge Alito is a spoiled trust baby who got kicked out of Harvard for cheating. Nor is he a United States senator who got drunk, drove a young female campaign worker to her death, then chose not to report it to authorities until the next day, and then, only after calling his lawyer, concocting an alibi and developing a strategy to contain the political fallout.”

As they said in churches years ago, that’ll preach.

And let’s examine the facts. Records from the Princeton alumni group clearly show that Judge Alito was not actively involved with it. Further, he stated over and over during the hearings that he had no actual recollection of the group or his relation to it. He suggested that, since he was a member of the Reserve Officer Training Corps, and the alumni group opposed the ouster of Princeton’s ROTC program, he might have joined for that reason.

Again and again, the Democrats looked befuddled as Judge Alito offered reasonable rejoinders to every vacant allegation they brought. He remained rational and levelheaded throughout the proceedings, just as one would expect a Supreme Court jurist to behave.

At the same time, the Democrats – lost in their monetary bond to the radical abortion-rights community that has so hysterically opposed Judge Alito – came off looking like irrational bullies.

I was so pleased to see Republican senators, including Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah, Sen. Jeff Sessions, Ala., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, S.C., gallantly defending Judge Alito against the frantic attempts to brand him unfit for the high court.

Sen. Hatch also stood up for Alito regarding the Vanguard allegations, in which the judge admitted that he made a mistake in initially working on the case before later recusing himself because he had invested in the company. Further, the American Bar Association investigated the issue and ultimately awarded Judge Alito with an excellent rating, with ethics officials finding no improper actions.

“You lived up to the law,” Sen. Hatch said, adding, “I don’t think you’ve been fairly treated.”

That’s the bottom line in the Alito hearings.

Judge Alito is a fine man and a brilliant jurist by all accounts. I don’t claim to know how he will vote on pivotal issues that will come to the court. But I know that he will be a thoughtful and balanced jurist who does not look at the Constitution and see a rubbery document that he can sculpt to accommodate shifting social inclinations.

Bottom line: The Democrats need to allow an up or down vote on this worthy candidate.

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