Idea who President Clinton will chose for th...

I HAVE NO

March 25, 1993|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

I HAVE NO idea who President Clinton will chose for th Supreme Court, but I know who he won't choose.

Robert Bork.

How can I know this? Because Clinton testified against his old Yale constitutional law prof's nomination to the Supreme Court in 1987. Looking back at Clinton's statement of opposition, one gets some idea of what he wants in a justice by reading what he didn't want. Here are some telling excerpts:

"Judge Bork has perhaps the most restrictive view of what the Supreme Court can do to protect individual rights of anyone who been nominated to the court in decades. . . . He has said all cases protecting privacy rights from government interference, and many protecting religious practices, were wrongly decided. . . . Judge Bork said that a large portion of the constitutional decisions of the last three decades were wrong and should be overturned. . . . Judge Bork has said that the court should not enforce many antitrust laws because he believes there is nothing wrong with most mergers . . . . In the South today we are pulling together. We should not risk being pulled apart to fight old battles in new forms. . . . I know the Supreme Court has to reassess its positions from time to time. That is why Supreme Court appointments are so important. They keep our Constitution and its greatness of liberty alive. Give the president a chance to nominate another justice whose views are more consistent with traditional conservative philosophy and restraint."

Do not believe that last sentence means President Clinton will nominate a "traditional conservative." He was just being realistic about President Ronald Reagan's inclination. Clinton's inclination is for a "traditional liberal." When he sticks litmus paper in his nominee's mouth, it had better come out pinko.

What else will Clinton want in a nominee? Prompt confirmation by the Senate. That'll show the nation that gridlock has really ended. Ideally, he should be able to do the Kennedyesque thing of getting a nominee zipped through. Consider Kennedy's success with the man whose retirement will provide Clinton with a vacancy.

Byron White was nominated on March 30, 1962. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a 1 hour 35 minute hearing on April 11. White and four supporters testified briefly. The committee's printed hearing record was only 25 pages long. The Senate formally approved the nomination that afternoon without even a roll call vote.

(For the other extreme, fast forward to 1987. July 1, Reagan nominates Bork. Judiciary Committee hearings begin Sept. 15. Bork is quizzed for five days. Clinton, 119 other witnesses testify. Hearings end Oct. 1. Committee's printed record runs 6,920 pages. Full Senate debates the nomination from Oct. 20 to Oct. 28, when it votes the nomination down 58-42.)

Who should Clinton nominate?

Monday: The perfect choice.

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