Linda Chavez

Hillary Clinton's list was a little more substantive than Obama's. She told attendees to a 2007 Planned Parenthood convention that she would pick judges who "understand the role of precedent," by which she meant Roe v. Wade -- though, apparently, no decision after it that rolled back an unlimited right to abortion. But she also threw in the phrase "well-qualified judges," which, at least, acknowledged that she would require something more than a kind heart in making her selections.

Ironically, the only candidate whose primary concern is the law is the one candidate who isn't a lawyer: John McCain. He says he wants "jurists of the highest caliber, who know their own minds, and know the law, and know the difference." Perhaps it takes the humility of one who hasn't gone to law school to hold the law in such high esteem. More likely, it's respect for the democratic process by which the people choose lawmakers. In McCain's view, it's the role of the Legislature -- made up of the people's elected representatives -- to write laws. If the people don't like the laws their representatives make, they can pick new legislators, but neither the people nor legislators should rely on judges to rewrite those laws for them.

It's impossible to predict a future president's judicial picks, but it's an almost certain bet that a President Obama (or Clinton) would choose judges who share their expansive view of judicial power while a President McCain would choose more humble judges who understand the limits of that power. What remains is for the voters to decide how much power they are willing to turn over to unelected men and women with lifetime tenure -- and pick their president accordingly.


Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .

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