Pro-lifers and conservatives are applauding the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court because he is expected to vote in favor of bans on partial-birth abortion, that he would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, that he would vote for religious liberty. But that he would vote this way is not just because he is personally pro-life (if indeed he is), but because his judicial philosophy is that of strict constructionism. And if the Constitution were properly applied in these cases, then the pro-life, pro-family, pro-religion cause would benefit.
Jonathan Adler, writing in Wall Street Journal, echoes what I said yesterday, that Alito’s suitability for the high court is not dependent on whether he is pro-life or pro-choice, but whether he is pro-law. And he is. His record and his judicial philosophy is clear from his years as a judge and a lawyer.
The problem with Harriet
This was the problem with Harriet Miers. It was not that she couldn’t be counted on to be a conservative judicial activist, but that there was no way of knowing her philosophy because she had no record. We were reduced to trying to glean that philosophy from where she attended church and statements she made years ago in the Texas Bar or on the Dallas City Council, and based on the president’s request to trust him. With all due respect to the president, voters have had the trust abused by too many politicians to so glibly trust even the best of them. Conservatives won’t soon forget how another President Bush asked us to trust him on his judicial appointment, David Souter. That hasn’t turned out so well for fans of strict constructionism when it comes to Constitutional intepretation.
These Supreme Court nominations are exactly why so many people voted for George W. Bush, especially in 2000, before the War on Terror. I’ll admit I wasn’t completely enthusiastic about Bush in 2000. He seemed to be too much of a big-spending Republican (since proved to be true), but I knew that we couldn’t allow the Democrats another 4 years or more because I figured at least two Supreme Court seats would open in the next term. I didn’t think it would wait until the second term, but there you have it. Still, one reason a whole lot of people voted for Bush had to be at least in part because of the importance of good judicial nominations, not just Supreme Court, but lower courts as well.
So it is understandable that once Bush got the opportunity to replace O’Connor and chose a blank slate like Miers, conservatives who backed Bush for these reasons were leery. But Alito looks like the right choice. Here’s hoping Bush has learned his lesson.