(The Return of) Ignatz, by Sam Heldman

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Bill Pryor was, to his credit, candid about many of his positions in his hearing yesterday. I know this from reading the newspapers; I couldn't listen to much of the hearing myself, because some of the voices involved are like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. If you want to read some praise of Pryor's refusal to backpedal from some of his beliefs, you can of course go to the National Review. But one of the items praised in the NR's piece jumped out at me as having been the complete opposite of candor. That was (according to NR) Pryor's explanation of his "joke" at the end of a Federalist Society speech, "Please God, no more Souters":
Senator Schumer asked Pryor: "What's wrong with Justice Souter?" For a moment it appeared that Pryor would retreat, as he began to explain that his remarks were a "perhaps feeble attempt at humor." But then Pryor stiffened again, saying he was simply responding to Souter's outspoken opposition to majority decisions in some federalism cases. "I have on several occasions disagreed with decisions of Justice Souter," Pryor explained. When asked why he had singled Souter out, Pryor gave a simple answer: Because Souter had written the opposing opinions. The issue went away.
If Pryor responded as the NR reports that he did, this was a blatant departure from honesty. Pryor's swipe at Justice Souter came immediately after Pryor urged that the best hope for "federalism" was that then-Gov. Bush would be elected as President and thus be in a position to appoint judges. In this context, Pryor's singling out of Justice Souter can have only one reasonable meaning: that Pryor said "no more Souters" rather than "no more Ginsburgs or Breyers" because Justice Souter had been appointed by the first President Bush, and turned out to be a grave disappointment to those who want Republican judicial appointees to generate Republican-favored outcomes. Bill Pryor thus squarely put himself in that camp: he doesn't like it when Republican judicial appointees aren't reliable votes for the outcomes that the nominating President's supporters prefer, at least in significant cases. More colloquially, it meant "Please, God, don't let W mess up like his Daddy did, and appoint a judge who's not a reliable vote." That is, I think, the only reasonable interpretation of his remarks on that occasion. If he backpedaled on that, he was not as candid as his supporters would like us to think.

See also Prof. Balkin's remarks on the hearing.

posted by sam 12:33 PM 0 comments


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