Saturday, April 23, 2005

Bernstein's Question for Liberals

Professor David Bernstein at The Volokh Conspiracy poses an interesting question, unfortunately one that liberals have to face for 3 more years and maybe longer:

"if you are a liberal to moderate Democrat, would you rather have an outspoken libertarian like Justice Janice Rogers Brown on a federal appellate court, or even the Supreme Court, or a more typical cautious conservative Republican who got his position in part through pure political loyalty (cynics may say hackery)? Is Justice Brown's intellectual independence a plus from your perspective, because she is perhaps less likely to acquiesce to the wishes of the Bush Administration, or a minus, because she won't give a fig about what the New York Times editorial page says about her judicial opinions and is therefore less likely to 'mature' in office? "
My answer is, give me the hack. Before I go on, I should admit I know very little about the current appeals court nominees. I think I know something about living and about American history. That tells me I'd rather have the Brennan, Blackmun, or O'Connor type than the Scalia or Thomas. Or rather, give me a person who's shown signs of "growing", of making mistakes and learning from them, of living a full life exposed to the currents of the society and the world, yes, even including the NYTimes editorial page. (That test might have excluded Judge Souter, who seems notably insulated from the world.)

Bernstein goes on to raise the issue of individual rights in the midst of the war on terror, which may go on indefinitely. That is one difference--I see the war on terror as petering out and not posing a major threat to civil liberties. The different perspective is one reason for my preference; too much will happen in the next 20 years that we can't predict. I don't want to trust someone who found the truth at 25 and hasn't learned since.

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