John Leo

The argument that Bush should pick centrists comes with a Ginsburg-Breyer attachment: Clinton picked moderates, so why can?t Bush? It?s true that neither Ginsburg nor Breyer is a flamethrower, but the Democrats know that these justices are reliable votes on the left. The Republicans have no comparable expectations because they keep picking wobbly centrists who keep sliding leftward. The pick-a-moderate advice is a Democratic way of encouraging Republicans not to learn from these failures. Some of those poor Republican choices were made when the left was very strong in the Senate and the White House preferred not to fight. But the Republicans are now in a strong position.

The Republican court nominees should be people with the mental toughness to withstand the pressures to wobble. The leaders of the legal and media professions are ?Living Constitution? types who dole out applause and honors to those who invent new constitutional rights and penalties to those who don ?t. For his role in conjuring up the Roe decision out of emanations and penumbras, the lackluster Harry Blackmun is lionized and hailed as ?a feminist icon? in a new book, Becoming Justice Blackmun, by Linda Greenhouse, the New York Times Supreme Court reporter. (?The Greenhouse effect,? referring to the warm reciprocity between court reporters and justices who meet with their approval, is named for her.) An example of the penalties for dissent is the treatment of Justice Antonin Scalia at Amherst College last year: The announcement that he would speak drew heated protests and written condemnation from 16 professors, including four who taught legal courses but didn?t believe that a Supreme Court justice they disagree with should be heard. Changing the court will be an uphill struggle. The naming of pleasant centrists won?t do the job.

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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