Tom McFeely is the National Catholic Register’s News Editor. He lives in British Columbia.
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and Vice President-elect Joe Biden are both Catholics, but that’s just about all that they have in common.
Biden was one of the U.S. Senators who most strongly opposed Alito’s nomination to the Supreme Court in 20005, primarily because Biden and other liberal Senate Democrats worried that Alito’s solid Catholic faith meant he would oppose abortion rights if confirmed to the court.
Alito decided to give Biden a little bit of payback last Wednesday, at a gala dinner hosted by the American Spectator.
Speaking at the dinner, Alito poked fun at Biden’s forced exit from the 1988 presidential race after disclosure of incidents of plagiarism by Biden.
“Recalling an incident in which an article he submitted to the Spectator was rejected for publication, Alito began by joking that his unpublished piece had detailed how he would vote on the most controversial issues facing the Supreme Court. Then — in the process of suggesting things had turned out well for him despite this rejection — Alito trained his sights on Barack Obama’s running mate,” Politico reported. “‘To coin a phrase, in the spirit of the vice president-elect,’ Alito began, ‘you don’t always get what you want, but you get what you need.’ Alito paused before continuing: ‘Did somebody say that before?’”
Continued Politico, “The justice’s delivery was clumsy, but to the laughing audience his joke was clear.
“Biden, who clashed with Alito during the associate justice’s 2005 confirmation hearings, dropped out of the 1988 Democratic nominating contest amid allegations that he had plagiarized both law school papers and his campaign trail stump speech.
“Alito’s comment — ‘you don’t always get what you want, but you get what you need’ — was a rough paraphrase of the famous Rolling Stones song, ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”
“‘I understood Alito’s remark as a crack about plagiarism,’ one audience member confirmed.”
Reported Politico, “Alito, who as a Supreme Court justice holds a nonpolitical office, prefaced his joke by recounting the story of his 2005 faceoff with Biden, when the future vice president grilled Alito for his association with a conservative group of Princeton University alumni — and later returned to the hearing room sporting a Princeton baseball cap in order to calm the mood.”
— Tom McFeely