With all the talk of how George W. Bush should have been more like dear old dad (in terms of foreign policy), it is clear that the younger Bush's record on judicial picks is far and away superior -- a point that has been underscored today.With Justices Roberts and Alito, the younger Bush gave us two terrific justices who are both intellectual heavy-weights -- and understand that the role of the judicial branch is to interpret the law, not to legislate from the bench. (Of course, there was that dreadful Harriet Miers pick, but let's not dwell on that, as she -- thankfully -- did not make it to the bench.)
In terms of a lasting legacy, a president's Supreme Court picks cannot be overestimated. Because judges can serve for life, the impact of George W. Bush's Supreme Court picks will likely outlive him -- as will his father's picks (including lower-court picks) -- which continue to have an impact.
To be sure, one of the reasons George W. Bush's seated justices turned out to be so outstanding is because conservatives had been burned by his father, who gave us Justice Souter.
Because of Souter, conservatives learned to insist on highly-qualified judges who have a record of not being activist judges. After Souter, conservatives would no longer take it on faith that a nominee would be a good judge -- as George H.W. Bush did when he listened to then Chief of Staff Sununu, who vouched for fellow Granite Stater Souter. (In fairness, not all of H.W.'s picks were liberal. After all, he did nominate Justice Clarence Thomas.)
It is ironic that Souter may now be replaced by another George H.W. Bush pick, Sonia Sotomayor. It was Poppy Bush who first appointed her to the bench in 1991, as part of a deal which allowed Senator Moynihan to pick one of every four appointments in New York. She was then elevated to the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1998 by President Bill Clinton.
Sadly, George H.W. Bush's picks continue to haunt conservatives, as we now have a Sotomayor nomination. Make no mistake: Sotomayor is a hard-left nominee who is more liberal than Judge Souter. Her judicial philosophy -- based on her previous comments and decisions -- implies that she believes her personal political agenda trumps the law.