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Nobody Else to Blame

October 6th, 2009

Sandra Day O’Connor is now critical of the new Roberts court, saying that they are “dismantling” some of the precedents that she helped to establish.

You don’t say? Sorry, Sandra, but you get no sympathy from me.

Seriously: you decided to retire under to most ardently conservative president in living history, somebody you knew would appoint a very young, hardcore, right-wing strict constructionist to replace you. Resigning while Bush was in office assured that this would happen. You made that decision, now you own it.

That O’Connor is complaining about this now demonstrates either a remarkable naivete on her part, else a desire to distance herself from the decision that she was ultimately responsible for. All she had to do was wait two more years, and she could have preserved her legacy. Maybe she had no choice (though she seems to have no trouble attending panels, at least), but she had in her hands to power to shape the future of Constitutional law for decades after she left–and she knowingly put that power into the hands of George W. Bush.

In short, she blew it, big time. Great going, Sandra.

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  1. stevetv
    October 6th, 2009 at 11:48 | #1

    Sandra Day O’Connor’s husband is suffering from Alzheimer’s, and she retired in order to oversee his care and be with him in his last years. That’s all that needs to be said about that.

  2. Luis
    October 6th, 2009 at 12:24 | #2

    If so, then fine. But it doesn’t change the fact that she knew exactly what the consequences were.

  3. Tim Kane
    October 6th, 2009 at 14:03 | #3

    This is the classic moral dilemma: one man’s life, whom she dearly loved is worth more than the rest of the nation’s well being from now until perhaps eternity, to the extent that that nation might not survive?

    If every soldier did the same calculus as Sandra, few would have been around to sacrifice themselves at Omaha, Tarawa, and Incheon beaches.

    Putting one’s own interest second is the price for accepting high office. That, after all, was Clinton’s sin, too.

    It bears repeating here, but Sandra voted to put Bush in office,and that required some jurisprudential calisthenics of Olympian proportions. Like Eisenhower, I’m not sure she realized the nature of the side she was aligning herself with. Certainly in Eisenhower’s farewell address, there’s a look of schock in his eyes when he gives the warning about the industrial/military complex which mushroomed during his administration.

  4. Troy
    October 7th, 2009 at 09:03 | #4

    There’s also the issue that law should be decided on the particulars of the case and the law and not on the larger societal outcome. Not that I think Scalia or the other 3 particularly subscribe to this principle, but criticizing O’Connor for the consequences of her decision may not be the correct tack to take here.

    She apparently also allowed the country a chance to reverse the mistake in 2004, but of course we failed.

  5. Troy
    October 7th, 2009 at 09:14 | #5


    ^ never mind. My TOEIC score was temporarily impaired before I wrote that.

  6. Anonymous
    October 9th, 2009 at 09:25 | #6

    According to Wikipedia: “On July 19, Bush nominated D.C. Circuit Judge John G. Roberts, Jr. to succeed O’Connor, answering months of speculation as to Bush Supreme Court candidates. O’Connor heard the news over the car radio on the way back from a fishing trip. She felt he was an excellent and highly qualified choice — he had argued numerous cases before the Court during her tenure—but was somewhat disappointed her replacement was not a woman.”

    also, according to her husband, she was reluctant to retire when a Democrat was in office (in 2000)…

    She got what she wanted. (other than the identity politics preference of having a woman appointed to the court)… indeed I have to wonder if her disappointment with the lessening of her legacy simply has to do with ego rather than any actual objection to the conservative nature of the changes.

  7. Luis
    October 10th, 2009 at 16:42 | #7

    The sources in Wikipedia are anecdotal, none from a solid source. The first part, about hearing it over the radio coming back from a fishing trip, is not sourced at all, and could be anything from the simple truth to O’Connor putting on a public face and not speaking poorly of her replacement. The fact that she IS speaking out now shows that she does not not appreciate the kind of judge he’s being–and she had to know at the time that he would be exactly this kind of judge. So the story Wikipedia tells does not ring 100% true.

    And the second part, about not wanting a Democrat to choose her successor, was a story told by Republicans–and therefore is automatically suspect. I’m not saying that it isn’t as printed–what I am saying is that being written in Wikipedia doesn’t make it true, either. Show me a believable source that can be traced back to something reliable.

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