Since writing about politics is a good way to get readers, and since I happen to know a thing or two about CAP, I decided to write about this major player in the Samuel Alito hearings.
Let me moderate that, by saying that all I know is a thing or two — it was not a big player on campus. But in the mid-80s, when Alito was apparently a member of this “controversial group opposed to women and minorities,” I was there and politically active. Having said that, I’m waiting for someone with a better memory than mine to come along and correct me in the comments.
Frankly I had to search around the web to recall who they were, but it didn’t take long. Andrew Napolitano of the Fox News Channel mentions that the editor of the group’s journal, Prospect, was Dinesh D’Souza, and Dinesh was the reminder I needed. The fact that he himself was not a Princeton alum (Dartmouth, ’83) diminished his impact on Princetonians — I recall at least one campus journal referring to him as Dinesh D’Soused. But nonetheless, he was and remains a more than capable conservative writer and thinker. I recall his arguments as being both well-reasoned and rational, if more conservative than many on campus could tolerate.
Whether or not the group, or some of its members, may have opposed coeducation in 1973, there was nothing of the kind emerging from the pages of Prospect at the time Alito was known to be a member. They were opposed to affirmative action, which at last count did not automatically make a person a racist (in fact, just the opposite).
Alito says he doesn’t recall being a member. That hardly surprises me; none of those who were heavily involved remember his involvement. Furthermore, the Daily Princetonian says that he may have become a member, and listed his membership in a job application with the Reagan administration, because it was a good alumni-networking tool:
Some alumni have suggested, however, that Alito’s association with CAP may not be exclusively about politics, but also about networking for the job market.
“Probably the most cynical view was that undergraduates [who were members of CAP] wanted to ingratiate themselves so that they had good summer jobs,” Lee Kaplan ’73 said. “Other people thought that they were truly committed individuals who were swimming against the prevailing political tide.”
A possible networking connection involves Terry Eastland, who served in the Justice Department during the Reagan administration and was involved with CAP, according to two people familiar with the group who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.
“That would have been a good connection for Sam,” one of the individuals said.
Indeed, the mention of CAP seems out of place on a resume that discussed Alito’s involvement with more prominent organizations such as the Federalist Society, a group of conservative lawyers, and the National Review and American Spectator, two national conservative publications.
It seems to me that Ted Kennedy, Dick Durban and Co. were able to make so much trouble about CAP at today’s hearings because Alito doesn’t remember his membership. That being the case, he couldn’t contradict Durban’s depiction of the organization as one that “would discriminate against women and minorities.”
That was a very nasty attack, and it was also false — at least to the best of my recollection. No such organization would have made any progress on the campus in my day. Not that CAP did anything terribly profound, but they were certainly a thorn in the side of the Bowen administration.