Precinct 333

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Arlen Specter -- Rebel Without A Clue

Fresh from having had his Senate seat saved for him by President Bush and fellow Pennsylvanian Senator Rick Santorum, prospective Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter has had the audacity to warn the President not to select conservative pro-life nominees for the Supreme Court. Already there are hints of a possible revolt against the elevation of Specter to chairman.

When asked Wednesday about Specter's impending chairmanship, another Republican on the panel, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, did not offer a ringing endorsement.

"We'll have to see where he stands," said Cornyn, a close friend of Bush who worked to get all of the president's nominees through the Senate. "I'm hoping that he will stand behind the president's nominees. I'm intending to sit down and discuss with him how things are going to work. We want to know what he's going do and how things are going to work."

We need to encourage Cornyn and other conservatives on the committee to abort a Specter chairmanship. If you need any more reason to question Specter's judgement, all you have to do is look at this quote.

Specter also bemoaned what he called the lack of any current justices comparable to legal heavyweights like Oliver Wendell Holmes, Louis Brandeis, Benjamin Cardozo and Thurgood Marshall, "who were giants of the Supreme Court."

"With all due respect to the (current) U.S. Supreme Court, we don't have one," he said.

Though he refused to describe the political leanings of the high court, Specter said he "would characterize myself as moderate; I'm in the political swim. I would look for justices who would interpret the Constitution, as Cardozo has said, reflecting the values of the people."

Thurgood Marshall as a giant of the court? Marshall was hardly a giant as a justice (though he was probably the greatest courtroom advocate of his generation). Even a cursory reading of his opinions shows a sloppy jurisprudence which was more concerned with reaching a desired result than providing a reason for that result which was grounded in the Constitution.

On the other hand, we have a Chief Justice who is one of the great historians of the Supreme Court, and two associate justices (Scalia and Thomas) whose opinions are scholarly masterpieces of originalism and textualism. No giants on today's Supreme Court? Only if one isn't looking for them!

And as for the Cardozo quote, I need only note that such a jurisprudence would leave the Republic without the anchor of the Constitution, for "reflecting the values of the people" is usually the excuse a judge uses to substitute his own views for the text of the Constitution itself.


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