Why Are Republicans So Awful at Picking Supreme Court Justices?
That's the depressing question Marc Thiessen is asking today in his column at the Washington Post.
Just compare the records over the last three decades. Democrats have appointed four justices — Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen G. Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. All have been consistent liberals on the bench. Republicans, by contrast, have picked seven justices. Of Ronald Reagan’s three appointees (Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia and Anthony M. Kennedy) only Scalia has been a consistent conservative. George H.W. Bush appointed one solid conservative (Clarence Thomas) and one disastrous liberal (David Souter). With George W. Bush’s appointments of Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Roberts, conservatives thought finally they had broken the mold and put two rock-ribbed conservatives on the bench — until last week, that is, when Roberts broke with the conservatives and cast the deciding vote to uphold the largest expansion of federal power in decades.
Thiessen names a few possibilities of why things are so. First, "there is no penalty for voting left, but there is for voting right." Conservative justices are viciously attacked by liberal politicians and the media if they dare to vote against the liberal agenda. They're blamed for polarizing America by liberal pundits, and shamed by a liberal President in his State of the Union Address while the world watches. But what consequences does a conservative justice face if he votes left? Some on our side sigh and say how disappointed we are, while others go so far as to defend the defection as some form of covert genius.
And second, "liberal nominees can simply affirm liberal positions, while conservatives must speak cryptically in terms of their judicial philosophy," Thiessen argues. For example,
In her 1993 confirmation hearings, Ginsburg declared the right to abortion “central to a woman’s life, to her dignity” and was confirmed 96 to 3. Breyer declared abortion a “basic right” and was confirmed 87-9. Imagine if a conservative nominee said the opposite? Their confirmation battle would be a nuclear war.
Bottom line: liberals are vicious and conservatives are spineless. Is that all there is to it?