Judging the Bush Legacy

Matt Lewis
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Posted: Apr 09, 2007 3:04 PM

Over at the Wall Street Journal, Kimberley Strassel makes the a good point about Bush's legacy:

Six years in, even the most critical conservative activists are concluding that President Bush has had an impressive judicial run. The base may be disappointed with other aspects of this president and his party, but there's a rock-solid feeling the Texan has lived up to his campaign promises to change the judiciary with distinguished conservative jurists. "I could nitpick here or there, but Bush really has won this issue, and it will be a long-lasting part of his legacy," says Curt Levey, president of the Committee for Justice, which advocates constitutionalist judicial nominees.

It's not so much the numbers, since President Bush may come in below modern averages in the crucial area of appellate judges. Bush (so far): 53. Clinton: 65. Reagan: 85. Then again, neither President Clinton nor Reagan faced an opposition so willing to abuse its advise-and-consent power, and to filibuster even lower-court nominees.

What voters have appreciated more has been the White House's rigorous attention to judicial philosophy (no Souters here!), and the amount of political capital the president plonked into his picks. Names were submitted, and submitted again. The withdrawals--Miguel Estrada, William Haynes, Terrence Boyle, others--came only after it was dismally clear the fight was lost.

The payoff was two stellar Supreme Court successes--John Roberts and Sam Alito--which alone qualify the prez for bragging rights. But consider too the appellate all-stars: Michael McConnell, Brett Kavanaugh, Jeffrey Sutton, William Pryor, Janice Rogers Brown, Dennis Shedd, John Rogers. Some of these confirmations also helped swing what had been liberal circuits--the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, for one--back toward the conservative side.