An astonishing statement from a sitting Justice

Again, from Jeffrey Toobin’s latest SCOTUS book:

By the time Sandra Day O’Connor was leaving the court in July of 2005, she had already let it be known that she regretted her vote in Bush v. Gore. (A Goldwater Republican from Arizona, O’Connor – as most of us know – was often the ‘swing’ vote on the Court, and it was in that case.)

By ’05, she considered the Bush presidency to have been a disaster. On one of her last days at the Court, in conversation with Justice Souter (a Republican appointee who usually voted with the liberals), she said:

“What makes this harder is that it’s my party that is destroying the Country.

I thought Republicans were for a strong military and a balanced budget . . . Bush repudiated all of that.”

14 responses to “An astonishing statement from a sitting Justice

  1. Would have been nice had she noticed a wee bit earlier.


    • Reminds me of how Eisenhower’s famous farewell speech warning about the military industrial complex came about eight years too late. That would be the eight years he was president. He said it too late. But hey, he said it.


  2. The effects of a decision should be immaterial to a judge of any sort. All that should matter is the law in question. Hence, I have no sympathy for O’Connor.


    • The thing is, jonolan, questions get to judges when the law ISN’T clear. We give them that power – do the ‘judging’ because the contestants or litigants or whatever can’t agree. We – in that case the Bush campaign – appeal to a Court – in that case SCOTUS – to settle the matter. And since the justices always disagree among themselves, the matter gets settled by vote.

      Also, everyone – parents, friends, employees and employers, legislators, clergy and judges – gets to look back and reflect upon past actions. Future effects of the decisions, the ‘judgements’ we make in real time, are not known. We often regret them. We’re human.

      She was also concerned about the effects of her leavving the Court as she clearly saw it as having become a political Court and didn’t like the direction that Republican partisans in the Court were taking the country..

      O’Connor had credibility that none of the others could claim. She was the only one who had ever run for office and served in an office. She understood politics. And she saw it all around her in those hallowed halls.


  3. Seems to me, Moe, that given the some:
    200,000 years we have been a species,
    5000 years since the invention of agriculture,
    400 years since the invention of science,
    then the 200 years since the launch of U.S. Constitution seems like very little time to prove its experiment in large representative democracy. And given that it so often pivots massively on the the single opinion of one often dyspeptic and sinecured geezer sure doesn’t make me feel any better about it.

    (If sinecured isn’t a word, it ought to be.)


    • Sinecured is actually a word, though one rarely used as are all verb forms of “sinecure” which is normally a noun.

      However, it doesn’t fit the role of SCOTUS justice or most politicians as their jobs do require a fair amount of work and a great deal of responsibility. Just because many politicians and a few justices – Kagen comes to mind – don’t do much work or fulfill those responsibilities doesn’t make the jobs sinecures. 😉

      Oh, and by the way, 400 years since the invention of science? That’s funny, since a great deal of the science from 400 years ago was based upon church-sponsored research over the previous 1000+ years and that, in turn, was based upon original research, observations, and theories from ancient Greece, Egypt, and other places around the world.

      And….We have good evidence of agriculture – actually domesticated crops (Figs to be specific) from as far back as 9400 BC (10,00+ years) and localized quasi-agriculture a 1000 years earlier.

      😉 Sorry, Jim. You blundered into one of my areas of study and tripped my hair-trigger pedantic circuit.


      • I’m not the least abashed about the dating, jonolan. After all, things like the beginning of agriculture aren’t all that definable, are they? Depends on the definition I think, and “farms” 5,000 years ago likely weren’t much to brag about. And as for science I was thinking roughly of Galileo and Newton, but the same principle applies. You’re right about “sinecure” in that its principal meaning relates to work, whereas I was reaching for something that describes a position secure from being fired. What would that be?


    • Jim, here’s something else that is just so off . . . the Court is six Catholics and three Jews. They all went to the same schools. And every signle of of them, except Kagan, were judges before they were Justices. Even more astonishing? Four of them are from New York City; from four of the five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.

      How’s that for narrow-casting?


      • Wow – I never stopped to put that together. Narrow indeed. Thanks for that and thanks for getting the thread back on track. And there appears to be no limit to the kinds of questions these nine narrow people are willing to decide, eh?


      • And please look at the intersection between Obama and his two nominees.

        The religious affiliations are moot though. Catholicism is the largest single Christian sect in America with approx. 10% of the US population and Jews are common in the legal field due to long-standing and often lampooned cultural proclivities.

        I suppose the schools are – even in the case of Obama’s picks – fairly moot too. There are only a few universities and law schools that will fast-track someone for such a posting.


        • jonolan: Alito, Thomas and Roberts worked within Republican Administrations. Kagan came from within an Administration. What’s the Sotomayor connection? She was a Clinton appointee to the Federal bench. That’s the norm these days.


  4. This guy has a good take on Agriculture and as far as our social experiment goes with social democracy and consumerism I think we may be seeing the beginning of the end. 😦


    • Thanks, T4T, for that interesting article by Diamond. He makes valid points, but the problem is that agriculture and large populations are interdependent. Merely pointing out that hunter-gatherer diets were better than those based on agriculture is useful only to reinforce what we already know about nutrition and ignored in the process is the reality of the safety issue, as in predators and acts of nature. And then there’s the side issue of evolutionary pressures. Our species rose to the top of the food chain by optimizing survival skills only to the point of child-rearing age. Our self interest depends on science now if we want long lives, and who doesn’t?

      All this then reflects, I submit, on the significance of Moe’s post here. The direction of our culture is hostage to the butterfly effect and is turning on the sharp pivot of the opinion of nine, and often one, elderly human beings who may or may not be wise enough for the job. The experiment continues, but there’s no going back. There be tygers out there.


  5. Yes Jim, the genie is definately out of the bottle. I think in time we may ask ourselves do we truly want to live longer(bigger) or do we want to live better. Unlike what consumerism tells us, maybe bigger really isnt better. Hostage, maybe its time for anarchy.


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