The Corner

Law & the Courts

Jeb Bush: Don’t Forget About Judges

Later this morning Jeb Bush is going to release a series of documents detailing his personal commitment to appoint judges who, in his words:

Look to the text, original understanding, history, and structure of the Constitution for their answers—not to their own views about which public policies would be better, not to their sense of the zeitgeist, and not to what might win favor on editorial pages. They will defer to the elected branches on issues the Constitution leaves to them to resolve. But when laws conflict with the Constitution, they will not hesitate to strike them down.

The Bush release is a welcome event, hopefully drawing into the spotlight the next president’s critical task in appointing not just Supreme Court justices but also the next generation of federal judges in the trial and appellate courts. If I had to name the most enduring failure of every single Republican president since World War II, it would be their abject failure to appoint judges who follow a consistent, constitutional philosophy of jurisprudence. Republican Supreme Court appointees are responsible for many of the Left’s greatest cultural victories, including legalized abortion, Obamacare, and gay marriage. Indeed, much of the Left’s entire program of cultural, legal, and political “fundamental transformation” wouldn’t have been possible absent approval from Republican appointees — including, sadly, even Reagan appointees like Sandra Day O’Connor or Anthony Kennedy.

While Democratic appointees are reliably liberal, voting almost like leftist automatons, Republicans in the White House and Congress have failed again and again in their fundamental task of appointing and approving judges who have the intellectual and intestinal fortitude to withstand the mainstream media and peer pressure of liberal legal academics. Given this reality, Bush’s sobering words are welcome

If the Court goes the wrong way, we face a troubling future. Our strong tradition of religious liberty, which is already under assault, could erode precipitously. The right to bear arms could be read out of our Constitution. School-choice programs that have given hope to children all over our country could be ended by judicial fiat. The states could be reduced to mere administrative sub-units of the federal government. Liberal dogma could be placed in the way of reasonable protections for unborn children, even when most people agree on them.

This is exactly right. As I noted months ago, the individual right of self-defense is one Supreme Court justice from repeal. There are now four justices of the Supreme Court who believe — shockingly enough — that the Second Amendment does not protect the right of an individual to own a weapon to defend themselves or their families. There are four justices of the Supreme Court who are actively seeking to restrict the ability of Americans to engage in political speech.

Matters of trust are now front and center in the Republican race. For example, Chris Christie’s record on judicial appointments is so abysmal – including his now-notorious admonition that the Senate should confirm Sonya Sotomayor — that it’s difficult to imagine a single, informed Republican voter believing that he should be entrusted with judicial appointments. We’re days away from the first real votes in the Republican primary season, and the next Republican debate is Thursday night. It’s time to ask the candidates, “Can we trust you with the awesome power of judicial appointments?” Candidates who don’t have a ready answer — or a defensible record — should be disqualified. Judicial nominations are that important.

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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