The Magazine

Inside "Concerned Alumni of Princeton"

Samuel Alito had virtually nothing to do with the notorious CAP. I did.

Jan 23, 2006, Vol. 11, No. 18 • By TERRY EASTLAND
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ABOUT THE ALITO HEARINGS, one thing is certain: If it had been the Concerned Alumni of Princeton that was up for confirmation, the nomination wouldn't even make it out of the Judiciary Committee. Democrats led by Sen. Edward Kennedy portrayed CAP as hostile to minorities and to coeducation and thus to women. And Republicans weren't about to get into a fight over CAP, which was formed in 1972, shortly after Princeton went coeducational and the same year Samuel Alito graduated. CAP went out of business in 1986.

CAP drew the interest of committee Democrats because Alito once identified himself as a member. Seeking a political position in the Reagan Justice Department in 1985, Alito, then a career attorney, noted on his job application his membership in CAP, which he described as "a conservative group." Before the hearings, Alito made clear that he was not an active member, and when, during the hearings, he was advised of certain things some people involved with CAP had said about women and minorities, Alito responded that he didn't have any knowledge of those statements and he emphatically disagreed with them.

Alito said on several occasions that he had "wracked his memory" but found "no specific recollection" of the group. A committee search of CAP documents belonging to former National Review publisher William Rusher and archived at the Library of Congress--a search demanded by Senator Kennedy--turned up no mention of Alito. When or why he had joined the group, Alito couldn't recall, though he said the reason might have involved ROTC, in which he was enrolled. "There were people who were strongly opposed to having [ROTC] on campus," he said in an exchange with Sen. Patrick Leahy. "And the attitude seemed to be that the military was a bad institution, and that Princeton was too good for the military, and that Princeton would somehow be sullied if people in uniform were walking about the campus, that the courses didn't merit getting credit, that the instructors shouldn't be viewed as part of the faculty." CAP strongly supported ROTC.

Sitting in the press section in Hart 226, mere feet away from the table where Sam Alito was insistently queried about CAP, I reflected on the oddity that I knew far more about CAP than Alito and his interrogators. Once upon a time, I drew a paycheck from CAP. I never thought I'd have occasion to write about those long ago days. But here I am.

It was July 1974, and after finishing a degree at Oxford, I had flown from London to New York City, where I was intent on finding a job writing for a magazine. My first choice (naturally) was Sports Illustrated, but it was fully staffed. I thought about approaching National Review, having read it for years, but opening a recent issue, I saw this classified ad:

Extraordinary opportunity for recent college graduate who is a conservative with experience in journalism. . . . Challenging work with magazine and organization that is active on Ivy League campus, will provide wide range of experience and opportunities for any young conservative who plans career in journalism, communications, business or politics. Working conditions ideal. Send resume, writing samples, and salary requirements to NR Box 1801.

I responded to the ad and was invited for an interview. The Ivy League campus, it turned out, was Princeton's. I took the train to New Jersey and was met by T. Harding Jones, who, like Alito, was a member of the class of 1972. Jones was CAP's executive director. He described CAP as a group of conservative alumni concerned about trends at their alma mater: a faculty tilting left, a curriculum going politically correct, academic standards declining. He told me about Shelby Cullom Davis, class of 1930, a wealthy businessman and ambassador to Switzerland in the Nixon administration, who was a founding chairman of CAP and its biggest contributor. CAP, of course, sponsored a magazine, Prospect, which was sent to all alumni, and it needed editorial help. Jones had edited the first issues, but his duties as executive director had grown such that he wanted a managing editor, someone to assign and edit stories, as well as write, and lay out and put to bed each issue. As I understood the magazine's purpose, it was to report and comment on developments at Princeton. The hope was that the administration would moderate its course.