Horace Cooper
A brilliant appellate court judge, widely recognized for his legal scholarship, is nominated to fill the second vacancy on the United States Supreme Court. He is nominated by an anti-abortion Republican president, who pledged only to appoint conservative, “strict constructionist” judges, who would interpret—not legislate—from the bench.

Rather than admit that they oppose him on ideological or philosophical grounds, special interest groups and liberal Democrats instead choose the low road. Lamenting that they had allowed the President’s nominee for chief justice to sail through a confirmation with little controversy, this time they have decided to engage in a smear campaign.

First, they examined his judicial record to see which cases they could distort and misrepresent to the American public. They argued that if he were to join the Supreme Court, he would roll back the clock on minority and women’s rights. When that failed, they regrouped to attack his ethics by using an old allegation involving a conflict of interest.

Historian David McCullough reminds us: “A nation that forgets its past can function no better than an individual with amnesia.” However, the case to which McCullough refers takes us back to the year 1969. The brilliant judge was Clement F. Haynsworth, Jr., and the president was Richard M. Nixon. Yet, McCullough’s admonition rings true today. Instead of abortion, the issue back then for senators and activists groups was civil rights. Led by Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana, a cadre of Senate Democrats worked hand-in-glove with special interest groups to organize the first “borking” of a Supreme Court nominee.

But any fair reading of Judge Haynsworth's record would have shown no evidence that he was an opponent of blacks or other minorities. His actual record involving civil rights litigation was fairly limited, involving fewer than a dozen cases and showing no discernible predispositions one way or another. But for his critics, these facts didn’t matter, as they embarked on a concerted effort to present him as an unrepentant segregationist.


Horace Cooper

Horace Cooper is a legal commentator and a Senior Fellow with the Institute for Liberty.