I want to add two points to my comments about the Washington Post article that claimed Justice Stevens is irreplaceable on the Supreme Court as far as liberals are concerned. First, TIm Graham identifies another flaw in Robert Barnes’ piece. In the opening paragraph, Barnes appears to adopt Stevens’ contention that almost all of his former colleagues on the Supreme Court were replaced by a Justice with more conservative views.
This is true only if one buys the standard left-wing narrative that Chief Justice Roberts is a right-wing extremist (to the right of strong conservative Chief Justice Rehnquist) and that Justices Breyer and Sotomayor are basically middle-of-the-roaders at least compared to Justices Blackmun and Souter. Barnes presents no evidence to support these characterizations, and I don’t believe they are accurate. As Graham points out, the MSM viewed Rehnquist as an extremist when he was around. And Blackmun and Souter were treated as moderates in their day.
My second point is that Justices Breyer and Ginsburg sure don’t get much respect from the left. As one reader observes, they must put up with the constant refrain that the liberal cause is hampered by the absence on the Supreme Court of a lefty version of Scalia — a brilliant thinker (presumably an academic) who can sway the public. Now, the Post is claiming that, in addition to falling short of the standards of the academic left, Ginsburg and Breyer don’t measure up to Justice Stevens either.
Justice Breyer, in particular, has reason to feel offended. He takes on Scalia not just in published opinions, but also in debates one can see from time to time on C-SPAN. And he has written a book — Active Liberty: Interpreting Our Democratic Constitution — that the Post described as a “kind of response” to Scalia’s book — A Matter of Interpretation: Federal Courts and the Law.
The left apparently believes Breyer is losing the debate, and I agree. But he isn’t losing it because he’s insufficiently smart — the power of Breyer’s intellect should be beyond dispute. He’s losing because, as the Post said when it reviewed his book, “Breyer’s project is harder than Scalia’s.” Like all left-liberals who deal with these matters, he’s arguing for a view of the law that, to put it gently, is counterintuitive.
There may be dazzling leftist academics who can make the case better than Breyer does. But if Goodwin Liu, often touted as one such academic, is any indication, it’s more likely that the left is engaging in a combination of sour grapes and wishful thinking.
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“Arise and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.” Winston Churchill
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