Alito Restraint

Jan 222006
Authors: Ben Bleckley

Last week, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy, announced he would vote not to confirm Judge Samuel Alito for the Supreme Court.

President Bush nominated Alito last year to take the place of Justice Sandra Day O'Conner on the court's bench. O'Conner, known as a moderate justice, often made a tiebreaking vote.

Many liberal political action committees (PACs) have warned Alito could be the vote that would overturn Roe v. Wade, the ruling that legalized abortion, in a future case.

However, Leahy rejects the Alito nomination for different reasons.

"At a time when the president is seizing unprecedented power, the Supreme Court needs to act as a check and to provide balance," Leahy said in a speech at Georgetown University Law Center on Jan. 19, according to Reuters.

"I have no confidence that Judge Alito would provide that check and balance," Leahy said.

President Bush's administration has pushed the limits of executive power.

Next month, the Senate will investigate the National Security Association's (NSA) eavesdropping program where they listened in on American cell phone conversations.

Normally, authorization for eavesdropping on telephone conversations would require a warrant, but President Bush authorized the program to operate without warrants. The New York Times reports the NSA has eavesdropped on perhaps thousands of people who've called into or out of the United States since 2002.

According to the Jan. 9 issue of Newsweek, the administration has not always been unilaterally behind the measure.

In spring 2004, White House Chief of Staff Andy Card and then White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales visited an ailing John Ashcroft, asking him to reverse the decision of his deputy and acting Attorney General James Comey who opposed the warrantless eavesdropping. Ashcroft refused.

Another legally baseless executive decision that has been a point of disagreement in the Bush White House has been that of enemy combatants and their continuing incarceration without legal rights. This has occurred in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba at Camp Delta and probably in secret CIA prisons in Europe.

The Supreme Court could end up ruling on such Bush policies. To confirm Judge Alito now would make it easier for the executive branch to permanently seize power that is currently uncertain.

With the nation's two political parties in a state of sharply charged dichotomy, it is especially important that executive power remains limited.

The Bush administration is either overconfident or shortsighted; if a Democrat wins in 2008, Bush may regret establishing wider executive power during his presidency.

Our forefathers established checks and balances to prevent any one individual from holding too much power. They did not want a king; they wanted a balanced and fair government. Presidents must remember to exercise a little restraint, especially at a time when only half the nation supports their executive.

Ben Bleckley is a senior majoring in English. His column runs on Mondays in the Collegian.

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