Republicans are not only hypocrites; they are predictable hypocrites. Although there may be good reasons for Republicans to have questioned the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to replace David Souter on the Supreme Court, that she is a liberal who was appointed by a Democratic president was not one of them.
Although Souter was part of the liberal wing of the court, he was appointed by Republican president George H.W. Bush. Not a single Republican in the Senate voted against his confirmation.
It was an earlier Republican president, Ronald Reagan, who appointed Sandra Day O’Connor to the court. Once again, not a single Republican in the Senate voted against her confirmation. She likewise turned out to be a tremendous disappointment to conservatives.
Then there is the most liberal member of the court, Clinton appointee Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Surely the Republicans in the Senate tried to block her nomination? The truth is, only three out of 44 Republican senators voted against her.
But even without all of this, the Republicans should have had no problem with the nomination of Sotomayor. After all, it was a Republican president, George H.W. Bush, who nominated her to the U.S. District Court in New York. She was confirmed on unanimous consent of the Senate. Then, when she was nominated by Democratic president Bill Clinton to be a U.S. Court of Appeals judge! 25 Republican senators voted to confirm her. The Republicans are a little late to be opposing Ms. Sotomayor.
There persists the belief that the Republican Party is the lesser of two evils because a Republican president will at least appoint “good” (usually identified as pro-life) justices to the Supreme Court. But it was Harry Blackmun! appointed by Nixon the Republican, who wrote the Roe v. Wade decision. Is there any evidence that, had he won the election, McCain’s judicial nominees would be better than President Obama’s?
McCain voted to confirm H.W. Bush’s appointment of Souter, as well as Clinton’s appointments of Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. McCain said that W. Bush’s appointments John Roberts and Samuel Alito would “serve as the model” for his judicial nominees. Yet both of them recently voted for executive power and against the right of habeas corpus in the case of Boumediene v. Bush. Sotomayor! for all her faults, has, according to the Cato Institute’s Gene Healy, at least shown some “skepticism toward broad claims of executive power.
The Sotomayor nomination will not be the last occasion for a fight over Obama’s Supreme Court nominees. Senior Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, who is 89, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who recently underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer, could both possibly retire during Obama’s first term.