Howard Dean on Sandra Day O’Connor
Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean had some kind words for retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s service. He then offered some advice to President Bush:
“President Bush should follow the example established by President Reagan when he nominated Justice O’Connor. President Reagan had the courage to stand up to the right wing extremists in his party by choosing a moderate, thoughtful jurist.
“A President faces no more important decision in terms of protecting the rights and liberties of all Americans than nominating a Supreme Court Justice. President Bush has a constitutional responsibility to do what presidents before him have done — seek the advice of senators from both parties before making a nomination, and choose a mainstream nominee who will protect our most important rights and freedoms.
There’s little doubt that O’Connor is the type of Justice Democrats hope to see nominated. I’m pretty sure that’s not what Ronald Reagan was going for. After all, he elevated William Rehnquist to Chief, appointed Antonin Scalia to the Court, and nominated Robert Bork before settling for Anthony Kennedy.
O’Connor was an unknown quantity because very few women, let alone conservative women, had a suitable resume for the Supreme Court in 1981–and Reagan had promised during the campaign that he’d appoint a woman. That she would become the “swing vote” on most of the controversial issues of the past generation, let alone an unpredictable, was not Reagan’s intent. Putting an unknown quantity on the court yields that result, however, as it also did with Kennedy.