Marc Theissen wants to know why Republican presidents are so bad at picking Supreme Court nominees. But he never considers the truth, which is that conservatives have been getting punked. It started early when Ronald Reagan decided he wanted to make history by appointing the first female Justice, instead of some fire-breathing Heritage Foundation knuckle dragger. When he followed that up with Antonin Scalia, it had more to do with appointing the first Italian-American Justice than anything particular to Scalia’s philosophy. Mario Cuomo threatened to destroy any Democrat who voted against Scalia’s nomination. None of them did. As for Anthony Kennedy, he was Reagan’s third choice for the position, after his first two nominees flamed out.
From a conservative’s point of view, Reagan did okay. He tried and failed to put Robert Bork on the Court, and he succeeded in putting Scalia there. Poppy Bush intentionally screwed the conservatives by putting David Souter on the Court. He wrongly assumed that he needed Souter’s vote to uphold Roe v. Wade, but he was ostensibly pro-life. When Thurgood Marshall retired, Bush felt he needed to appoint a black person to the court. He also needed to make amends with conservatives for some of Souter’s votes. Those are the only reasons that Thomas was nominated.
The younger Bush appointed the now suspect John Roberts and then tried to put Harriet Miers on the Court. Miers was probably pro-choice. That’s probably at least part of the reason Bush nominated her.
The truth is that the abortion issue wasn’t that important to Reagan and it was a fake issue for the Bush family. Poppy Bush was pro-choice until he became Reagan’s running mate, and his wife remained pro-choice. Laura Bush was always pro-choice, and her husband didn’t much care one way or the other. It’s not just abortion, though. The people who play politics at the top of the Republican food chain don’t want to live in Pat Robertson’s America. They just need those votes. A Court that actually ruled in a consistently culturally conservative way would invite backlash. And, as Roberts just proved, there are limits to how much Wall Street and the Tea Party can agree about the proper scope of the federal government. The Tea Party is there to provide energy and votes. They are not there to be taken seriously.
What has been happening since Obama got elected is that the lunatics have begun to run the asylum. They’ve taken over some cell blocks, but the battle is not yet over. John Roberts just proved that.