Monday, October 31, 2005


After observing the purple prose flying around the blogosphere all day on the nomination of Samuel Alito, I have gone from moderately concerned to progressively annoyed. I promised myself that I would not let myself be distracted from the real issues that need to be addressed, like Alito's judicial record and philosophy.

What is it? My heritage--being an Italian American. And it's being used in the lowest way possible to get Alito confirmed to the bench. I'm not surprised but I am pretty pissed off.

Drudge posted a claim on his website earlier today that "the right-wing is pushing back on the nickname “Scalito” given to Samuel Alito because they see it as “ethnically insensitive”:
One outraged Republican strategist claimed, “If Alito were a liberal there would be no way Democrats and Washington’s media elite would use such a ethnically insensitive nickname. Italian-Americans should not have to face these types of derogatory racial slurs in 21st century America.”

Later on, Orrin Hatch picked up the baton and ran with it on Faux Gnus implying that opponents of Samuel Alito’s nomination may be motivated by Alito’s ethnicity. He warned senators “to be very careful here,” because a vote against Alito would be “held against them” by Italian-Americans:

[They] think they own the Italian-American vote all up and down the East Coast. They don’t, but they think they do. If they become offensive against somebody with the qualifications of Sam Alito, Judge Alito, then I think it’s going to be held against them. They’re going to have to be very careful how they handle this, and frankly what bothers me if 22 — in other words, half of the Democrats in the Senate — could vote against John Roberts, can you imagine what this nomination is going to be like? There’s no reason they should have voted against Roberts. And I think Alito’s going to be just fine but we’re all going to have to work really hard to make sure that’s so.

In the interest of remaining as civil as possible, all I'll say is Hatch you SOB. These guys wouldn't know ethnic sensitivity if it walked right up and bit them. Remember this reference from their darling Justice Roberts: [A]nticipating a presidential interview with Spanish Today, he wrote. "I think this audience would be pleased that we are trying to grant legal status to their illegal amigos."

I bet he cracked them up at the Federalist Society with that one.

And as for Drudge's assertion that "Italian-Americans should not have to face these types of derogatory racial slurs in 21st century America" I've got news for you Sunshine--we do. Italian Americans are not a race, we have an ethnic and cultural heritage. A heritage, I might add, that has been hijacked by the Mob stereotype, aided and abetted by the likes of Coppola, Scorcese, DeNiro, and Pacino. That is why you'll never see an Italian character on TV or in the movies who has an everyday job like a dentist or who doesn't come across as loud, crass and ignorant. Because that's boring. People aren't interested in that. Oh, they love the music, food, and art from Italy. Where do you think Gucci, Fendi, Valentino and all those luxury goods started out? What about those hot sports cars like Ferraris and Maseratis? And the contributions of Galileo and Michaelangelo? People are more than happy to have as much of that as they want. But put us in the movies or on TV and the stereotypes prevail.

The biggest traitor is A. Kenneth Ciongoli, the Chairman of the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF), who posted this over at Drudge--

Update: National Italian American Foundation Demands “Scalito” ApologyMon Oct 31 2005 15:56:42 ET

National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) Statement:

The NIAF is distressed by the attempts of some senators and the media (CNN, CBS) to marginalize Judge Samuel Alito’s outstanding record, by frequent reference to his Italian heritage and by the use of the nickname, “Scalito.”

Appropriately, no one mentioned that Justice Breyer was Jewish or suggested that he was lock-step ideologically with the other Jewish Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, it would have been outrageous to do so. We still do not know Justice Robert’s ethnicity.

We are justly proud of Justice Alito’s Italian heritage and his sterling academic and judicial records as well as his impeccable integrity. However, he should be considered as an individual. In honor of the memory of the just departed Rosa Parks the Senate champions of civil rights should insist that Judge Alito be considered only on his extraordinary merits.

Someone over at ThinkProgress looked up Ciongoli and found something not so surprising: a loyal Republican. Ciongoli's bio at NIAF identifies him as a board certified neurologist. "Currently, he is President of the Neurological Associates of Vermont and Clinical Associate Professor of Neurology at the University of Vermont College of Medicine (UVM)....Dr. Ciongoli is founding member of the Vermont Italian Colonial Association (VICA), a member of The Mutuo Soccorso, The oldest Italian American organization in Vermont and a past member of the Board of Governors of the Ethan Allen Club, the oldest continuous club in North America."

And even Chris Matthews has jumped into the fray. This afternoon on MSNBC, he claimed the Democrats are circulating a paper about Alito losing a case in 1988 that was Mafia related. He said that a producer handed it to him and it says at the top: "The Democrats are handing this out." If I had known about this much earlier today I would have called the DNC to personally ask Howard to rip Tweety a new one and avenge my cultural honor. I'm sure Howard dispatched that rumor with surgical ease. (Update: Based on Renee's transcript, it sounds like he didn't. Sigh.)

For the record, the earliest mention I can find of Alito being referred to as "Scalito" is a March 2003 article on I could be wrong but it's not a new nickname.

Anyone who thinks Italian Americans will hold it against a senator who votes against Alito is relying on the old stereotypes to work. In the meantime, don't look for me at The Olive Garden. I entertain in my home where I am a damn good cook and I guarantee you'll be treated like family.

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