To refresh our memories, President Clinton had a chance to make two appointments to the Supreme Court. The first came with the retirement of Justice Byron White, a conservative who cast one of the two votes against Roe vs. Wade. And just one year before his retirement, White, joining three other justices, dissented in the 5-4 pro-abortion decision in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania vs. Casey.
With the court so closely divided, what did Clinton do to preserve the balance? Did he replace White with another conservative, someone equally clear that there is no constitutional protection for abortion? He chose the former general counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union, a leading liberal law scholar whose special interest was women's rights: Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Any question how close she was going to be to White?
The president did what presidents always do. He picked someone he thought would be a good justice according to his own views. He didn't worry about preserving the balance on the court, and he certainly didn't worry about maintaining the court's division over abortion.
And Ginsburg was confirmed by a vote of 96-3.
It's time to return to the understanding that presidents get to pick the judges they want, as long as they're qualified for the job, and that senators are voting not on whether a nominee conforms to their preferences but on whether he or she shows the competence and temperament necessary to the judicial role. It's time to recognize the Clinton Precedent as the benchmark for what presidents do.
Lefties sure aren't going to like this.