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Conservatives Lukewarm on Souter Nomination:
As I noted below, I've been looking through Westlaw for news reports of past Supreme Court nomincations to see what was different or similar about past nominations and current ones. The following story appeared in the Washington Times on July 25, 1990, ten days after President George H.W. Bush nominated David Souter for the Supreme Court:
CONSERVATIVES LUKEWARM ON SOUTER
Joyce Price

  Conservatives expressed lukewarm support yesterday for Supreme Court nominee David Souter, but most predicted they will be behind him strongly once they know more about him.
  "The consensus is that we would have preferred someone else - not what we were given," said Richard Viguerie, chairman of the United Conservatives of America. "But we have to accept what's on the table and move forward."
  Mr. Viguerie made his comments at a news conference that featured leaders of five conservative organizations. "We're giving a cautious thumbs-up" to the nomination, he said, adding that the president "still has a seriously damaged relationshp with conservatives."
  Peter T. Flaherty, chairman of the Conservative Campaign Fund, said he could not endorse Judge Souter at this time.
  "There remain too many unanswered questions about who he is and how this nomination came about," he said. "President Bush needlesly passed over a number of highly qualified candidates for the court whose philosophy is well known. In doing so, he has taken an unacceptable risk . . ."
  . . .
  But despite the downbeat tone many expressed about Judge Souter's selection,David A. Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, predicted: "Most conservatives will get into the fight and fight for the confirmation of Judge Souter."
  Mr. Viguerie agreed. "We're driven by a lot of things. When the NARL (National Abortion Rights Action League) and Molly Yard (president of the National Organization for Women) start trashing this guy, our natural juices start flowing."
  Alan Keyes, chairman of Citizens for America, said the Souter confirmation struggle will be a national fight, "not an inside-the-Beltway situation." The White House, he said, "better gear up for the battle."
  Liberals are also preparing for combat. The same women's, pro-choice and civil rights organizations that lobbied to defeat the Bork nomination in 1987 vow to do the same thing to Judge Souter if they find out they don't like him. While most are officially taking a wait-and-see attitude, some are already convinced he is their enemy.
  "At this point we have to assume he's very anti-choice, since John Sununu, who's anti-choice, thinks he's wonderful and President Bush, who's anti-choice, thinks he's qualified," said Chung Seto, spokeswoman for the National Women's Political Caucus. "It's no longer enough to have no record. We've seen how that works with Anthony Kennedy. We need to know where he stands on women, abortion and civil rights."
M P:
Didn't the Post's tick-tock story from yesterday say Andy Card pushed to add her name to the short list? How very Souter-esque. Sununu (WH Chief of Staff) pushed Souter, and Card pushed Miers.
But what does it all mean??
(Cue the X-Files music)
10.5.2005 12:07pm
just me:
My favorite part of this clip is this quote from Chung Seto, spokeswoman for the National Women's Political Caucus. "It's no longer enough to have no record. We've seen how that works with Anthony Kennedy. We need to know where he stands on women, abortion and civil rights."

Yeah, maybe 1990 was too early still, but we DID see how that worked with Kennedy - Casey, Lawrence, etc. So she had little to complain about in the long run, on Souter or Kennedy.
10.5.2005 12:17pm
MJ (mail):
The Souter article is chilling.

I'm truly hoping that Ms. Miers realizes that a battle over her within the rebublicans/conservatives will harm the President irreparably and will step aside.

I think I'm speaking for a lot of conservatives when I say this nomination is unacceptable and if it goes forward all the way to the Supreme Court - I am done with supporting this administration. If conservatives get no say in who gets put on the supreme court, a critical, critical, issue and appointment that we have been waiting almost 15 years for, then why should we support the President?

Why this didn't occur to the President or at least someone in the WH who could convince him not to put forward this pick is beyond me. It reeks of a "Let them eat cake" attitude that won't have my support any longer. If conservatives don't deserve to replace Justice O'Connor with a nominee they can be proud of, then we have not been taken seriously enough by the President.
10.5.2005 12:18pm
Robert Schwartz (mail):
Is it true that Harriet Miers maiden name was Souter?
10.5.2005 12:26pm
Rob1855 (mail):
If the Democrats confirm Meyers, can they ever complain about the qualifications of a federal judge again?
10.5.2005 12:44pm
just me:
Random thought on term limits for USSC Justices: Awhile back there were posts on VC about some proposals to give them just 15 years. Just think, Souter would have hit that this summer! Then again, Scalia would have been out in 2001, when the Jeffords swap gave the Senate to the Dems until the 02 elections . . .
10.5.2005 12:45pm
Richard Bellamy (mail):
This more practical question is why activist groups -- on both sides -- waste money on supporting or opposing Supreme Court candidates.

If I'm a pro-choice group, isn't it a better use of my money to pay for pro-choice ads, or support avowedly pro-choice candidates, rather than spend who-knows-how-much-money digging up dirt or Souter (or Roberts or Miers).

If I'm a conservative group, why waste political capital supporting Souter (or Roberts or Miers) or defending these guys from liberal attacks?

Judges with paper trails a mile long have been known to change their minds. Even judges with "pure" conservative views end up on the "wrong" side of conservative polical causes all of the time in their decisions.

A reasonable cost/benefit analysis would clearly lead to these things being worked out by Senators in back rooms, with no experts willing to waste their time pontificating in public about it.
10.5.2005 12:47pm
just me:
Mr. Bellamy -

I'm not sure I can agree, as a practical matter, that pro-life or pro-choice groups can/should focus only on political candidates, and not SCOTUS justices. If Roe were gone, and the issue were THEN left to the political branches, then sure. But for now, consider this:

For pro-lifers, they could have 99 % of every state legislature, and have 99% of both houses of Congress, and it gets them squat if every law they pass gets struck down. So they have to care about SCOTUS -- not to win the battle, but to even be ALLOWED to fight it in the political branches.

And for pro-choicers, they need to have SCOTUS because at least some of their stances -- e.g., opposition to even late-term abortions, and opposition to parental notice -- are so unpopular that they'd need to change a LOT of minds to win those fights. It's far easier to count to 5. AND they have history to prove it. Not only the cases from Roe on, but they can point to Bork/Kennedy as why they still have Casey. Remember, the Justice Blackmun papers now conclusively show that Kennedy was part of a 5-4 group to overrule Roe, and then he switched. Had that been Bork -- the guy nominated for the spot that Kennedy got -- then Roe would have been overruled in 1992.

Now, no one knows where the what-ifs would have gone from there. Would NARAL have given up on courts and turned to the state-by-state political fights? Or would they have fought to restore Roe?

But we never found out, because the Bork defeat kept this out of the political branches.

So, with that reality for both sides, how can we say that they should drop the focus on SCOTUS?

On a different, but related, angle, I think one can instead argue that all this is a darn good reason to ditch Roe. That issue (and others, but that dominates) has warped the whole process. Maybe if it gets kicked back where it belongs, we get some of the activists out of the SCOTUS selection process? I can only dream.
10.5.2005 2:31pm
Coppinger (mail):
Mr. Bellamy-

I think you are absolutely right that the involvement of activists in SCOTUS nominations is a reflection of the distortions introduced by Roe. As a moderate liberal, leaning pro-choice, though not to the extent of the NARAL types, I would applaud the death of Roe, and the return of this politcal issue to the political arena. Indeed, to the extent that pro-life means criminalization, the return to the political arena might not be such a great thing for the Right.

In addition, one might hope that the return of the abortion issue to local politics might lessen the nastiness of the culture wars from national politics.

Worst of all, the great political focus on a few political issues heightens the danger that the appointed Justice might be a poor judge, who takes the right political stance on an issue or two, but does great damage to the law in the 99% of cases that are not politically charged, but which have a direct bearing on many of our livlihoods.
10.5.2005 2:44pm
Lab:
So why don't conservatives ever give Kennedy credit for Lopez or Morisson, not to mention Bush v. Gore?


It's all about sex,sodomy and abortion with them.
10.5.2005 7:52pm
Cornellian (mail):
Going off on a tangent here, have you ever wondered why opposition to the idea of a constitutional right to abortion (which has been around for decades) manifests itself as a campaign to appoint different judges, whereas opposition to the idea of same sex marriage (which has never been declared a constitutional right at the federal level) manifests itself as a campaign to amend the constitution? Shouldn't it be the reverse? Or an amendment in both cases or different judges in both cases?
I suppose it's a bit hard to rally the base to appoint new judges to replace ones who haven't actually ever made the ruling you don't like but I always thought this difference of approach was illogical.



I think you are absolutely right that the involvement of activists in SCOTUS nominations is a reflection of the distortions introduced by Roe. As a moderate liberal, leaning pro-choice, though not to the extent of the NARAL types, I would applaud the death of Roe, and the return of this politcal issue to the political arena. Indeed, to the extent that pro-life means criminalization, the return to the political arena might not be such a great thing for the Right.
10.5.2005 9:32pm