Polemics & Exchanges

Stealth Candidates

I have no desire to defend President George H.W. Bush or his execrable appointment of David Souter to the Supreme Court, but I was confused by the chronology of the Turnock v. Ragsdale case laid out by Scott P. Richert in the February issue (“Robert Bork, R.I.P.,” Cultural Revolutions).  In December 1989, when that case was scheduled to be heard, there were three justices on the court (William Rehnquist, Byron White, Antonin Scalia) who were clearly anti-Roe and would eventually vote that way in Casey.  Anthony Kennedy would have made four.  At the time, some conservatives still held out hope that Sandra Day O’Connor might vote to overturn Roe, although she had clearly signaled otherwise in Webster.  She would have made five.  But the justice who retired in 1990 and was replaced by David Souter was none of those five but William Brennan, one of the four justices (along with Thurgood Marshall, Harry Blackmun, and John Paul Stevens) who was clearly pro-Roe.  The appointment of Souter did not lead to an increase in the number of pro-abortion justices, but maintained the status quo.

It is true that the delay of a Roe reconsideration by more than two years gave Kennedy more time to “grow in office”; perhaps in 1989-90 he would have withstood pro-abortion pressure...

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