In the graffiti sequence that became famous in the sixties, the first item announced, “I love grils.” The next item responded, “That should be ‘girls,’ you moron,” or something to that effect. A final item inquired, “What about us grils?”
By the same token, I’ve been wondering how David Souter feels to have become the negative benchmark against which Republican nominees to the Supreme Court are measured. In talking to knowledgeable court watchers over the past few weeks, I’ve been struck by how little sense of him that people who’ve worked at the Court have. He is described as being a private, gracious man. But how does it feel to be David Souter? I don’t have a good answer and I’m sure few people care, but I wonder.
The current issue of National Review carries a good review by Professor Robert George of the new book on Harry Blackmun by Linda Greenhouse — she of the infamous New York Times “Greenhouse effect.” Merely to recall Blackmun in this context gives cause for reflection on how large and positive an impact the Federalist Society has had on the overall quality of federal judges appointed by Republican presidents. Among the all time worst appointments to the Supreme Court by Republican presidents, Blackmun has to rank right at the top along with William Brennan. At least Eisenhower knew that Brennan was a Democrat. How could Nixon have known Blackmun would be so bad?
In any event, Professor George’s review has a paragraph on Blackmun’s reaction to his post-Roe vilification that describes how I would guess Souter feels:
Of course, Harry would be vilified by conservative Christians and other fuddy-duddies. But this would serve only to confirm his belief in the rightness of what he had done and open his mind more generally to the righteousness of liberal doctrine. From now on, he would no longer be boring old Harry the square Republican. He would be a full-fledged jurist, indeed a lion of liberal jurisprudence, right up there with William O. Douglas, Wiliam J. Brennan, and Thurgood Marshall. Harry was redeemed! He had become Justice Blackmun.