Judge Robert Bork has not sought my counsel for his confirmation battle with the Senate. I’m not surprised—I have a less than enviable track record when it comes to such matters.
In 1970, President Nixon nominated Florida Judge G. Harold Carswell to the high court. I was assigned to help get him through the Senate. My first task was to persuade an influential and wavering senator, William Saxbe. After much study I became convinced that opposition senators were misreading the Constitution’s “advice and consent” clause, which its framers intended merely as a check on character and moral fitness of Court nominees.
So I prepared a draft letter to Saxbe. “What is centrally at issue in this nomination,” I wrote, “is the constitutional responsibility of the President to appoint members of the Court—and whether this responsibility can be frustrated by those who wish to substitute their own philosophy or … subjective judgment for that of the one person entrusted by the Constitution with the power of appointment.”
My letter was not particularly diplomatic; I knew it would be watered down as it passed through channels. Instead, it somehow went straight to the President’s desk. Nixon loved it, signed it, and had it delivered.
Saxbe hit the roof. Senators, it seems, do not enjoy having their prerogatives questioned. Carswell’s opponents waved copies of my letter on the Senate floor, angrily denouncing both Nixon and Carswell. Then Sen. Roman Hruska nailed Carswell’s coffin closed with his memorable defense to charges that Carswell was a “mediocre judge” with an “undistinguished record.”
“Even if he were mediocre,” roared Hruska, “there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers, and they are entitled to a little representation, aren’t ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more