When I retired as publisher of National Review in 1988, I sent all my office files to the Library of Congress. It had requested them, as part of its archive of 20th century political manuscripts. I guess they thought students of conservatism might find them useful someday.
Among them were my files on Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP), a group I had helped found in 1972 to protest Princeton’s steady drift toward being what a fellow alumnus, my old National Review colleague James Burnham, sadly called "just another liberal joint." Our two chief concerns were its deliberate debasing of its admission standards to meet self-imposed racial and ethnic quotas (the policy that later became famous as "affirmative action," and which the Supreme Court recently ruled unconstitutional if adopted by public universities), and its decision to throw the ROTC right off the campus.
CAP survived for a dozen years or so, publishing (with money contributed by yet another alumnus, former Ambassador to Switzerland Shelby Cullom Davis) a periodical called Prospect, and sending mailings to Princeton alumni — a practice that understandably distressed the university administration.
Then in 1985, Samuel A. Alito Jr., a Princeton graduate who was applying for a job in the Reagan administration’s Justice Department, decided to include in his resume — presumably to impress the Reaganites with his conservatism — the datum that he had been a "member" of CAP.
Fast forward to November 2005. Alito, now a distinguished judge, has been nominated by President Bush to succeed Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court. It occurred to David Kirkpatrick, a New York Times reporter and yet another Princetonian, to look into my files on CAP at the Library of Congress, to see if they revealed anything about Alito’s activity in the group, or anything discreditable about CAP itself. Pursuant to the Library’s rules, Kirkpatrick asked my permission, which I cheerfully gave. In a subsequent article in the Times, he acknowledged right up front in the second paragraph that "there is no evidence that (Alito) played an active or prominent role" in CAP. The rest of the article described CAP’s activities and concerns, which were exactly what you would expect of a group of conservative alumni.
But he did not extinguish the suspicion (or hope), which was now germinating on the loony left, that my files might contain something truly damaging to Alito — or at least to CAP, with which Alito might then be smeared by association. (If so, why had Kirkpatrick missed it? Maybe they thought he, too, was part of the vast right-wing conspiracy.)
In any case, the Library of Congress thereupon received a request from Ralph Neas’ People for the American Way (PAW), a smelly bunch of leftists with no principles worth mentioning, to let them rummage through my files on CAP. I denied the request, in keeping with my uniform custom of refusing to give PAW the correct Eastern Standard Time.
A subsequent and more curious request to the same effect then came from the Congressional Research Service, which (as is its custom) was acting on behalf of one or more members or committees of Congress, but refused to identify them. For that reason, this request, too, was denied.
That brings us to Wednesday, Jan. 11. That morning, in the Judiciary Committee hearings on the Alito nomination, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) demanded furiously that the committee chair, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), subpoena my files on this evil organization, CAP. Specter, who had apparently not seen a letter from Kennedy to the same general effect, told him to stop trying to run the committee, but allowed that he would look into the matter.
A couple of hours later, a member of Specter’s staff phoned me and requested access to the files. I granted it, promptly and cordially, and by nightfall investigators for both Specter and Kennedy were at the Library of Congress, going through the files. They stayed at it, I am told, until 2 a.m. on Jan. 12. That same morning, Chairman Specter told the committee and the world that Judge Alito’s name was nowhere to be found in those files — not even once. Score one for Kirkpatrick.
And Sen. Kennedy? In his desperate and wholly unsuccessful effort to blacken Judge Alito, he has smeared the good names of Concerned Alumni of Princeton and various of its members with false charges of racism, anti-feminism and much else.
Just one more disgrace in the long history of this famous collector of disgraces.
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