Bench Memos

Searching for Common Ground

Taking President Obama at his word, when he called for people to seek “common ground” on abortion and to reduce its incidence, law prof Michael Stokes Paulsen of Minnesota’s University of St. Thomas propounds five questions for the president at  Each is a challenge to President Obama to live up to his own stated desires.  Here’s part of Paulsen’s fifth challenge to Obama:

Mr. President, it would go a long way to demonstrating your seriousness in seeking common ground if you would nominate for this seat someone who does not have a previously announced commitment to abortion rights and support for Roe v. Wade. David Souter famously had no previously stated views on this issue before being named to the Court. Mr. President, if you are serious in seeking common ground, will you commit to naming no one to the Supreme Court based on a pro-abortion or pro-Roe litmus test, or who has previously committed himself or herself to such a position?

This is a perfectly reasonable request to make of someone who has said what Obama has said.  What’s more, the failure to meet this challenge would provide a perfectly good ground for senators to vote against a nominee.  “Vote nay on a committed pro-abortion jurist” is an obvious, a just, and an effective rallying point in response to the president’s nomination, if he doesn’t meet Paulsen’s challenge.

Matthew J. Franck is the Director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey.

Most Popular


An Idea for Student Loans: Get Rid of Them

Here is a three-part plan for something practical the federal government could do to relieve college-loan debt. Step 1: The federal government should stop making college loans itself and cease guaranteeing any such loans. Step 2: It should prohibit educational lending by federally regulated financial institutions ... Read More
White House

The Problem with the Mueller Report

So much for collusion. The media conversation has now officially moved on from the obsession of the last two years to obstruction of justice. That’s because the first volume of the voluminous Mueller report, the half devoted to what was supposed to be the underlying crime of a Trump conspiracy with Russia, ... Read More
White House


Some of you will be familiar with a lefty, partisan Democratic organization called MoveOn, formerly MoveOn.Org. It was founded during an investigation into President Bill Clinton’s shenanigans (which were not, Democratic mythology notwithstanding, strictly sexual in nature) and argued that it was time for the ... Read More

A Reckoning Is in Store for Democrats

The crisis of the Democrats is becoming more evident each week. Those of us who have been loudly predicting for years that the Russian-collusion argument would be exposed as a defamatory farce, and that the authors of it would eventually pay for it, are bemused at the fallback position of the Trump-haters: that ... Read More