Did Alito belong to a racist group in college?


    Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito isn’t the only member of the
    defunct Concerned Alumni of Princeton claiming a fuzzy memory about the
    group known nationally in the 1970s for members’ resistance to
    expanding female and minority admissions. On Wednesday, William A.
    Rusher, an early leader of the conservative alumni group and former
    publisher of the National Review magazine, said of CAP in a telephone
    interview: “My memory is dim but we certainly were in no way a racist,
    or homophobic or misogynist organization.”

    But asked what the group did worry about _ perhaps that a politically
    correct agenda was watering down admissions standards or traditions at
    the Ivy League university _ Rusher said flatly, “I simply haven’t a
    recollection on the subject of what we were concerned about.”

    Now 82 and living in San Francisco, Rusher was drawn into the fray
    during Alito’s third day of confirmation hearings after Sen. Edward M.
    Kennedy, D-Mass., pressed Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen
    Specter, R-Pa., to get the Library of Congress to open up Rusher’s
    private papers.

    Alito, who appears headed for confirmation by
    the Republican-led Senate, has faced criticism from Democrats for
    boasting in a 1985 job application to the Reagan administration of his
    membership in the alumni group.

    Under repeated questioning this
    week, the nominee has testified that he has “racked” his brain but
    cannot remember participating in the group; that he did not and does
    not have issues with female or minority university admissions or
    hiring; and that he may have joined the alumni group because he shared
    its stand in opposition to the brief expulsion of the ROTC from the
    Princeton campus.

    Democrats have responded that his explanation
    does not ring true. Several have said they don’t see why Alito would
    have highlighted a marginal affiliation with a group on a job
    application, unless, at the least, he was trying to convince
    then-Attorney General Ed Meese, under who he was hired as a deputy
    assistant attorney general, of his conservative social credentials.

    In that same job application, Alito wrote that the National Review, its
    founder Willliam F. Buckley Jr., and conservative politician Barry
    Goldwater, were among the “greatest influences” on him.

    Rusher,
    according to an online biography, was publisher of National Review for
    three decades and was instrumental in the campaign to draft Goldwater
    to seek the GOP nomination in 1964. Of Alito, Rusher said Wednesday, “I
    don’t recall that I ever met him or heard of his name.”

    The
    Library of Congress’ manuscript division has boxes in its Rusher
    collection that include the CAP membership lists, minutes of meetings,
    financial records and news clippings. Kennedy has argued those
    materials could help determine the extent of Alito’s involvement in the
    group. But because Rusher is still living, the materials cannot be
    released without his permission.

    A request by the Congressional
    Research Service was denied. Rusher did give the New York Times
    permission to go through his papers in November, after Alito’s
    nomination was announced. A subsequent article in the newspaper
    concluded that Rusher’s files as well as records at a Princeton library
    gave “no indication” that Alito was a major donor or active leader in
    the alumni group.

    Rusher agreed Wednesday to give the Judiciary Committee access to his papers if it would end the fussing.

    “I predict there’s not going to be anything in the least newsworthy or discreditable in them,” he said.

    He also said he’d been watching Alito’s hearings this week. Rusher’s verdict on the nominee’s performance: “Excellent.”