Anybody get a screenshot of the LGM mention tonight? Doesn’t seem to be up on the MSNBC site…
I’d have to say that when we started this thing I didn’t expect it to get mentioned on a major liberal TeeVee news program. Wait, a primetime liberal TeeVee news program? That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard!
…Here we go!
Like Yglesias, I strongly recommend this piece from Jeffrey Toobin. Supreme Court appointments being political, various forms of diversity have always been a major part of the selection process for judges — and this is perfectly appropriate. Everyone knows that Bush never seriously considered appointing a white person to replace Thurgood Marshall — and he shouldn’t have. I also agree with Lithwick that while Thomas certainly proves most Republicans as world-class hypocrites, more importantly he proves that the liberal position is right on the merits. Given the political reality that Bush in that context was going to choose a proven Federalist Society type, Thomas has almost certainly made a more unique and interesting contribution to the Court than any alternative would have.
I had assumed that Michael Goldfarb and Fred Barnes had established a gap between the intellect of someone challenging the qualifications of Sonia Sotomayor and the intellect of Sonia Sotomayor that could never be extended. I may have been wrong. You have to like the way she can’t even deliver the meaningless buzzwords cleanly (apparently, Sotomayor “litigates from the bench.” Oh noes!) Bonus points for the way the unbearably smug host pronounces Sotomayor’s name.
Unfortunately, this will probably be too late to help prevent an appalling precedent. I’d like to think that Stevens is gently asking Souter if this is really the way he wants to go out, sort of like what Earl Warren did with Stanley Reed when the latter was holding out on Brown…
Stuart Taylor, on a Republican nominee:
Alito’s critics have similarly ignored much evidence that his 15 years of steady, scholarly, precedent-respecting work as a judge tell us more about him than a handful of widely (and misleadingly) publicized memos that he wrote more than 20 years ago.
On a Democratic nominee:
And some may see Sotomayor’s [innocuous] letter [written as an undergraduate] as evidence that she was predisposed to look for the worst, not the best, in the institution that had afforded her such opportunities. She now sits on Princeton’s Board of Trustees.
So, if I understand correctly, memos Alito wrote directly about important constitutional issues while applying for an important government job should be disregarded, but letters that Sotomayor wrote as a student are somehow important despite their utter lack of relevance to any discernible constitutional issue. And I must have missed Taylor’s series of posts giving Sotomayor’s opinions the most moderate possible reading. But I’m sure he has deeply principled reasons for all this!
And note the additional hackery — to say that a circuit court judge is “respectful of precedent” is non responsive to the well-supported argument that Alito was doctrinaire conservative, both because how a judge interprets ambiguous legal materials is more important and because when elevated to the Supreme Court Alito wouldn’t be bound by precedent. (Alito has, of course, been exactly the completely doctrinaire reactionary the Bush administration expected when it picked him, because that’s what all the evidence suggested.) Strange, though — I haven’t seen Taylor even try to argue that the one case he’s ever cited to defend his proposition that Sotomayor is some kind of left-wing radical was inconsistent with 2nd Circuit precedent. Must be an oversight…
I’ll be writing later this week about whether judicial appointments are ideologically predictable. But I find this assertion from Randy
Barnett Barret rather problematic:
Everyone knows it’s all over but the spinning, but Lefties can take special solace in an odd trend: Liberal high court justices stick to their ideology on the bench while rightward picks have tended to drift to the left over time. Nobody can agree on why.
The poster children most often praised/cursed are Harry Blackmun, William Brennan, Sandra Day O’Connor, David Souter, John Paul Stevens, and Earl Warren — all of whom were nominated by Republican presidents and went on to side with the liberal bloc on key Court decisions. President Dwight D. Eisenhower ultimately described his appointment of Warren as “the biggest damn-fool mistake I ever made.”
It seems to me that Barnett is conflating two issues here: ideological drift, and judges who were picked for reasons other than ideology. Blackmun is the strongest example of a drift leftward over time, but between the fact that he was always moderate and his unique status as the author of Roe (who was consequently vilified by many conservatives), it seems equally clear that generalizing from his example would be foolhardy. O’Connor also drifted left, although this was partly her changing and partly the Court around her getting a lot more conservative. Stevens changed even less. But Brennan and Souter and Warren? They were never conservative by the standards of their time, there was never any particular reason to believe that they would be, and more to the point they didn’t change so much as start left and remain consistent.
And then, of course, there are counterexamples — Frankfurter, Black after 1960 — of liberal judges who became more conservative. Especially once you adjust for the fact that reactionary positions will tend by definition to be less popular over time, I don’t really see any evidence that ideological drifts are a one-way ratchet.
Kansas, as I’m sure some of you know, was at the center of the epidemic of anti-choice terrorism, with at least tacit support from some prominent public officials. Congressional intervention in the mid-90s helped curtail this attempt to use violence to deny women their rights greatly, but can’t eliminate it altogether. Tiller’s courage was remarkable. R.I.P.
…I wish I could say I was surprised by this. But…
…and, of course, Ann is right about the effects.
…more wingnuttery summarized here.
I am about to leave for Florida, on my annual pilgrimage to the ETS AP Comparative Government scoring session. I don’t consider this a full vacation, and may still blog sporadically; posting will be at a much lower rate than normal, however. Filling in will be UW trained political scientist David Brockington, who is all things to all people. Please extend every courtesy yada yada blah blah etc.
Erik has some concluding thoughts on our series on George Herring’s From Colony to Superpower. For my part, I enjoyed reading the book and commenting on it. Patterson is considering using From Colony to Superpower on next year’s Summer Reading List, although we’ll may start at the beginning of the twentieth century, rather than with the Founders. This is necessary, but a bit unfortunate; I most enjoyed the early chapters, because I was reading about foreign policy episodes that I had previously been unfamiliar with. In any case, I heartily recommend the book, and it would make very solid summer reading even if you aren’t a student of US foreign policy.