Civil liberties. One decision gave a virtual blank check for government investigators to conduct aerial surveillance of citizens—even by hovering over the fenced yards of private homes. A second upheld the forfeiture of a woman's car because her faithless husband had been parked in it while receiving oral sex from a prostitute. Two more gave presidents absolute immunity and attorneys general almost absolute immunity from lawsuits for their official acts, including the Nixon administration's illegal wiretapping of political opponents. And the judge approved a police officer's fatal shooting of an unarmed, 15-year-old black youth, in the back, because he was suspected of fleeing the scene of a minor burglary.
Choice. The judge has called abortion "morally repugnant"; declared Roe v. Wade to be "on a collision course with itself"; claimed that governments have "compelling interests in the protection of potential human life ... throughout pregnancy"; and forced terrified minors to notify often-abusive parents (or beg judges for permission) before they can obtain abortions.
Environment. Among other anti-environment decisions, the judge overturned a long-established Clean Water Act regulation that had protected ponds and many wetlands from dredging and filling by profiteering developers.
Big business. One decision supported Big Tobacco's position that it could not be regulated in any way by the federal Food and Drug Administration—not even to prevent use of TV ads to hook children and teenagers on cigarettes. A second overturned a jury's $145 million award of punitive damages against a big insurance company that had refused in bad faith to settle a valid car-crash claim and thereby exposed a policyholder to personal liability.
I could go on. But as you've probably figured out by now, I have been playing a little trick. None of the opinions, dissents, or votes described above (accurately if incompletely) were Judge Alito's. All were Justice O'Connor's.
That would be the same Sandra Day O'Connor who is hailed on the Web sites of Alito's most bitter opponents as "moderate" (Naral Pro-Choice America); as "a critical vote ... in numerous cases to protect Americans' rights and liberties" (People for the American Way); and as "beholden to nothing and to no one except the law" (NOW).
My purpose has been to illustrate how easily the tactics used by liberal groups to tar Alito could be used to portray even the sainted, moderate O'Connor as a fanatical conservative who "has sought to dismantle reproductive choice, undermine civil-rights enforcement, weaken environmental protections, restrict individuals' ability to seek justice in the courts when their rights are trampled by corporations, and diminish constitutional protections for abusive government intrusion into Americans' privacy," to borrow from a recent People for the American Way depiction of Alito.