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Sandra Day O'Miers

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Flashback to 1981. It's long, read it.

President Reagan’s choice of Arizona Appeals Court Judge Sandra Day O’Connor to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court has astonished and dismayed a great number of conservatives, many of whom keep wondering how in the world he arrived at this particular selection for this most critical of judicial positions.

From a wide variety of viewpoints it seems wrong-headed. The president undoubtedly feels good about fulfilling his campaign pledge to name a woman at an early opportunity to the High Court and thus “dish the liberals,” as his political advisors keep gloating about, but did it have to be this woman? is what conservatives keep asking themselves....

In her 18 months on the Appeals Court, she has not ruled on the major kinds of issues she will have to face as a Supreme Court Justice. “We’re buying a pig in a poke,” said one conservative critic. “The Administration is asking us to accept her on faith, but why should this be the case for such a crucial appointment? Surely they could have done better.”

And take a look at O’Connor’s cheering section. Democratic Senators Teddy Kennedy (Mass.), Howard Metzenbaum (Ohio) and Alan Cranston (Calif.), three champion musketeers of the liberal-left, couldn’t have been more enthusiastic about her nomination. Rep. Morris Udall (D.-Ariz.), who may, if possible, tilt even further to port, waxed joyous. “I’m really quite pleased,” said Udall, “…If we’re going to have Reagan appointees to the Court, you couldn’t do much better.” Americans for Democratic Action spokesman Stina Santiestevan said she was “thrilled” at the choice, while Arizona’s ACLU Chairman Alice Bendheim thinks she’s going to work out just fine. Speaker Tip O’Neill believes this is the best thing that the President has done since he’s been in office....

The President has assured us that Mrs. O’Connor is personally opposed to abortion, that she finds it “abhorrent,” but that hardly tells us where she will line up judicially on the subject, since even most of the ardent pro-abortion advocates insist they are “personally” opposed to abortion as well.

But her views on abortion, others will insist (even many conservatives, we acknowledge), should not be the “litmus” test as to whether she should be selected. But surely, if keeping promises is the goal of the Reagan Administration, a nominee’s views on abortion should be as seriously weighted as the nominee’s gender, since the Republican Party platform bluntly says: “We will work for the appointment of judges at all levels of the judiciary who respect traditionally family values and the sanctity of human life,” and the President strongly defended that section of the platform in his Sept. 21, 1980, debate with John Anderson. And who has a better right to have their wishes embraced by the Administration—the Gloria Steinem crew or the right-to-life forces who tirelessly worked for Ronald Reagan?...

Though obviously bright and energetic, the 51 year-old O’Connor, especially when she served in the Arizona senate in the early 1970s, was not considered a conservative....

But, still, this is pretty thin gruel. President Reagan, for all his and is aides’ assurances, is asking conservatives to rally behind a highly uncertain trumpet. Mrs. O’Connor, of course, may turn out to be just what the doctor ordered. President Reagan, we concede, hasn’t yet been a bad judge of character, as the metamorphoses of Richard Schweiker and Terrel Bell attest. Yet Schweiker and bell and other Cabinet appointments can be fired if they don’t follow presidential orders. But once Mrs. O’Connor slips on that black robe, she cannot be budged from the bench.

Hence, if nothing else, the Judiciary members, especially the conservatives, owe it to their constituencies to thoroughly scrutinize Mrs. O’Connor’s record and philosophy, assuming she’ll finally admit she has a philosophy. What is so difficult to comprehend, however, is why the Administration, in making this weightiest of all appointments, selected a nominee of such murky ideological moorings.

Under a Reagan presidency we expected to see a major transformation in the High Court, a sea-change shift to the right. But that kind of alteration is not likely to come about with O’Connor-type appointments.

Conservatives—no, the country—have a right to expect better
Atrios has more on the same subject.

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