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BUSH'S SUPREME COURT NOMINEE

Many on the Right Delighted With Pick

November 01, 2005|Emma Vaughn and Johanna Neuman | Times Staff Writers

WASHINGTON — As soon as President Bush announced Monday morning that he had chosen appellate Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. as his nominee for the Supreme Court, Genevieve Wood's e-mail inbox lighted up.

"People were shooting out support, organizing events," said Wood, a conservative activist with the Center for a Just Society, which bills itself as an organization "where faith, law and policy meet."

By the end of the day, the conservative advocacy group Progress for America, pledging to undermine any attempt by liberals to argue that Alito is a right-wing ideologue, announced a one-week $425,000 advertising buy, a $50,000 e-campaign and 20 state grass-roots efforts.

"It was so much and so quick, nobody was holding back," Wood said. "It was quite different than Harriet Miers."

Conservative websites quickly blazed with reaction: "Very pleased," said Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council. "An excellent choice," said Beverly LaHaye, founder of the Concerned Women for America. "Another strict constructionist who will not legislate from the bench," chimed in Roberta Combs, president of the Christian Coalition of America.

But beneath the outpouring of praise was a hint of a caveat -- as if the right wanted to hedge its bets, in case document scrubs by reporters, bloggers and Senate staffers turned up evidence that Alito was not, as billed by the White House, a letter-of-the-law kind of guy.

In an interview, Phyllis Schlafly, founder of Eagle Forum, said she was "cautiously optimistic that he's what we hoped for."

Formal statements issued by some organizations echoed the caution: "Initially heartened," said the Rev. Rob Schenck of the National Clergy Council.

And James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, who came to rue his early embrace of Miers, put out word that "any nominee who so worries the radical left is worthy of serious consideration."

Besides, Dobson added, "based on what is now known about Judge Alito, we applaud the president for this outstanding nomination."

The hesitation in otherwise jubilant voices recalled the right's disappointment in David H. Souter, the New Hampshire judge who in 1990 impressed President George H.W. Bush as a conservative before becoming one of the Supreme Court's more reliable liberal votes.

"I have a wait-and-see attitude toward any of the judicial nominations, because in the past some judges looked conservative on their face and turned out not to be," said Karen Brauer, president of Pharmacists for Life International. "I'm more interested in a judge who will adhere to the Constitution, not make up law and not legislate from the bench."

To many conservatives, no issue better demonstrates those principles than Roe vs. Wade, the decision that legalized abortion nationwide and was premised on a right to privacy that they do not believe exists in the Constitution.

"We are now on the fast track to derailing Roe v. Wade as the law of the land," Troy Newman, president of the antiabortion group Operation Rescue, wrote on his group's website. "Alito's judicial philosophy reflects the views of the majority of Americans who are increasingly outraged by the current liberal activist court."

Conservative women expressed no disappointment that President Bush had selected a man to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, even though First Lady Laura Bush said she wanted her husband to name a woman. O'Connor, the first woman named to the court, had expressed similar sentiments.

"Ideology trumps gender," Schlafly said.

"I look at judicial philosophy before gender, race or where the nominee goes to church," said Wood of the Center for a Just Society. "He's obviously got experience when it comes to constitutional interpretation."

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