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Greenburg on the Souter Nomination:

I've started reading Jan Greenburg's much praised Supreme Conflict. As she describes the nomination of David Souter to the Supreme Court, President Bush didn't decide to nominate him until just before he announced the decision publicly. This conflicts with the little inside knowledge I have. At the time, I was acutely interested in who the Supreme Court nominee would be. I was in between my second and third years of Yale Law School, and was scheduled to clerk for then-Judge Clarence Thomas on the D.C. Circuit, who was rumored to be under consideration, along with Edith Jones. On Saturday night after Justice Brennan resigned, I spoke to a very well-connected friend and classmate, who called to tell me, "it's going to be Souter." I responded, of course, "who"???? And next, "are you sure?" he was sure. The Souter nomination was announced on Monday.

I don't know where my classmate got this information, but it certainly turned out to be correct. Even if the decision wasn't 100% final when he imparted this information to me, it seems to have been a lot more certain than Greenburg makes it out to be in her account. According to Greenburg, Bush interviewed both Jones and Souter that Monday morning, before making his final decision. Combining what I heard from my classmate with Greenburg's account, it seems to me like the decision had already been made, so long as Souter didn't completely blow his interview with the president, with Jones waiting in the wings just in case.

Christopher Cooke (mail):
David, without knowing why your "well-connected" source thought Souter was going to get the nomination, you don't know if he got lucky in his prediction or if he knew something Jan Crawford Greenburg's sources didn't know. I think you are leaping to conclusions. Anyone who knew Warren Rudman knew that he liked David Souter (Souter worked for Rudman in New Hampshire AG office). People also knew that GHW Bush was grateful to Sununu for his help in bailing Bush out in New Hampshire. Your friend could have been basing his prediction on this information.
3.5.2007 9:30pm
Kovarsky (mail):
for those unfamiliar with jones' jurisprudence, our country would look very, very different if Bush had gone the other way. that's not to say better or worse, but very very different. to whatever extent "conservative" and "liberal" correllate meaningfully with outcomes, Jones would be far more "conservative" than anybody on the court. she is not a minimalist of the roberts-ilk; she lacks thomas's libertarian streak or justice scalia's pronounced emphasis on the rights of criminal defendants in trials and direct appeals.
3.5.2007 9:37pm
Kovarsky (mail):
correlate.
3.5.2007 9:37pm
davidbernstein (mail):
C.C., my friend was (is) not the type to going around saying something like this with certainty if he wasn't pretty confident about it. And he was just a law student, albeit a well-connected one, who had no more heard of David Souter previously than I had.
3.5.2007 9:56pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
David: maybe you should ask your friend what he thinks about the accuracy of Ms. Greenburg's book.
3.5.2007 11:33pm
Lev:

for those unfamiliar with jones' jurisprudence, our country would look very, very different if Bush had gone the other way. that's not to say better or worse, but very very different. to whatever extent "conservative" and "liberal" correllate meaningfully with outcomes, Jones would be far more "conservative" than anybody on the court.


Yeah, Edith "Darth Vader" Jones.
3.5.2007 11:33pm
MS (mail):
Lev,

No, just Edith "very very conservative" Jones.

I tell you what, I'll go first: Steve "very very liberal" Reinhardt.
3.6.2007 12:05am
Kovarsky (mail):
MS,

Very very very very very very conservative.
3.6.2007 12:07am
anon123:
thank you Nina Totenberg
3.6.2007 12:15am
Kovarsky (mail):
anon123

?

Lee
3.6.2007 12:28am
Brent Peterson:
David,

I think your friend's account is consistent with Greenburg's description of the events leading up to Souter's nomination. From the get-go, Chief of Staff John Sununu was pushing for Souter. It seemed clear that Sununu had Bush's ear on the nomination early on. By the time Starr was out of the picture as a possible nominee, Sununu had framed Souter as the front-runner in Bush's mind. If your friend's source was in any way connected to Sununu or his staff, then I could see how he would be reasonably certain that Souter had the nomination locked up barring a major screw-up.

I also got the impression from Greenburg's book that Bush was never particularly interested in Jones. It seemed that he was just involving her as a courtesy to those in the DOJ (like Luttig) who were championing her nomination.
3.6.2007 1:07am
Anderson (mail):
Edith Jones was too kooky for George H.W. Bush.

For that matter, can anyone imagine him appointing Janice Rogers Brown dogcatcher, let alone D.C. Circuit Judge?
3.6.2007 9:32am
Constantin:
Considering Bush 41's lack of anything approaching actual devotion to conservatism, I've always wondered to what extent the famed "mistake" he made with Souter didn't actually turn out exactly the way he wanted. That is, he wasn't trying to nominate a stealth conservative and failed; he was looked for a stealth liberal and succeeded.
3.6.2007 5:26pm