But when his effort to elevate Judge Robert Bork failed, he turned to Anthony Kennedy of California, whose seat Trump is filling today.
Over 30 years, Kennedy’s vote proved decisive in 5-4 decisions to uphold Roe, to discover homosexuality as a constitutional right, and to raise same-sex unions to the legal level of traditional marriage.
George H.W. Bush’s first choice was David Souter, who also turned left to join the liberal bloc. Bush I got it right on his second try in 1991, naming the constitutionalist Clarence Thomas.
As for George W. Bush, he chose John Roberts as Chief Justice to succeed Rehnquist and then Sam Alito as associate justice.
Thus, of 15 justices Republican Presidents have named since World War II, five—Warren, Brennan, Blackmun, Stevens and Souter—became liberal activists. Kennedy and Sandra Day O’Connor, both Reagan choices, became swing justices and voted with the court’s liberals on critical social issues.
Democratic presidents have done far better by their constituents.
Of seven justices named by LBJ, Clinton and Obama, every one—Thurgood Marshall, Arthur Goldberg, Abe Fortas, Ruth Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor—turned out to be predictably and consistently liberal.
Clearly, the advisers to George W. Bush and President Trump looked back at the successes and the failures of previous GOP presidents, and have done a far better job of vetting nominees. They reached outside for counsel.
It was Trump’s 2016 pledge to draw his nominees to the high court from a list of 20 judges and scholars supplied by the Federalist Society that reassured conservatives and helped him unite his party and get elected.
On the issue of judicial nominees and justices to the Supreme Court, Trump has kept his word.
And the next Supreme Court may one day be called the Trump Court.
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