By Quin Hillyer at the Washington Examiner;

It is long past time for Supreme Court nominations to be considered with seriousness and proportion, not as pitched battles on the plains of political Armageddon.

Archives at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California provide a lesson in how nominations once, appropriately, were handled. It particularly shows how liberal Democrats once behaved reasonably, rather than like the character assassins some leftists have become.

On July 7, 1981, Reagan nominated Arizona state appeals court judge Sandra Day O’Connor to the nation’s highest court. That very day, liberal stalwart Rep. Morris Udall, D-Ariz., pronounced himself “really quite pleased.” Even more liberal Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., said “President Reagan should be commended for nominating a woman.” Feminist leaders also chimed in with immediate support for Reagan fulfilling a campaign pledge to name the first-ever female high court nominee.

To be sure, there was serious carping from the traditionalist Right, because when O’Connor served in the Arizona Legislature, she four times advanced policies the Right considered to be abortion-enabling. Nonetheless, Reagan said O’Connor herself had told him she found abortion “personally abhorrent” – a sign, for Democrats wanting to defend the Roe v. Wade “abortion rights” precedent, that O’Connor might not be with them on what is perennially the biggest “hot button” court issue.

Moreover, O’Connor had been Senate Republican Leader in Arizona, an obviously partisan job in a state where Republicans were famously conservative. Her foremost advocate was hardline conservative Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz., and she was known to be a longtime friend and ally of Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist (also of Arizona), who then was the Supreme Court’s most rock-ribbed conservative.

By the standards of today’s Senate Democratic leadership, all those elements of O’Connor’s biography would have been cause for apoplexy.

But the Democrats raised nary of peep of opposition….

[The full column is here.]


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