Bench Memos

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The GOP Debate in New Hampshire


From my review of the transcript, it appears that there was strikingly little in yesterday’s debate relating to the Supreme Court and judicial nominations.  Here’s all I found: 

1.  Lightning struck—really—when Rudy Giuliani started to answer Wolf Blitzer’s question about a Catholic bishop’s comparison of Giuliani’s position on abortion to Pontius Pilate’s position on the crucifixion of Jesus.  In explaining his position in support of legal abortion, Giuliani referred to several factors, including “my reading of the Constitution”.  It’s unclear what exactly Giuliani meant by that, but it’s hardly an encouraging sign that he would suggest that the Constitution—which is substantively neutral on the question of abortion policy—has any bearing on his position in support of legal abortion.  Giuliani seems intent on making it as difficult as possible for proponents of judicial restraint to take seriously his talk about appointing “strict constructionists”.  (He likewise seems intent on making it as difficult as possible for pro-lifers to support him:  His comments closed with a rhetorical question—“And should government put them [i.e., women making a decision about abortion] in jail?”—that irresponsibly insinuates that abortion restrictions typically criminalize the conduct of the mother rather than of the abortionist.) 

2.  Blitzer stated that Mitt Romney had adopted his pro-life position “relatively recently” and asked why people should believe his position is genuine.  As part of his answer, Romney cited his record as governor of Massachusetts and stated that “as we were debating cloning and as we were debating also embryo farming, I said Roe v. Wade has gone too far.”   

3.  Ron Paul was asked about “this whole issue of church and state”.  The gist of his response is that “the Constitution tells us” that “[w]e sort out the difficult problems at local levels and we don’t have one case fit all.”  Paul specifically cited Roe as a case that wrongly imposed a rule “for the whole country.” 

Is there any candidate who is going to create the opportunity to make a serious case for judicial restraint? 

Tags: Whelan


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