The Corner

McCain and Judges

Back in 2001, I predicted that John McCain would come out against Bush’s nominees to the Supreme Court over campaign-finance reform. Those nominees were more likely than not to be judicial conservatives, and judicial conservatives were much more likely than not to consider his cherished legislation unconstitutional. Plus McCain would get even more love from the press.

Then President Bush nominated John Roberts and then Samuel Alito. It was pretty clear that they were fairly conservative on jurisprudential issues, and I think it is fair to say that the way they voted in Wisconsin case was not a shock. (Neither was the somewhat disappointing minimalism of their opinions, but that’s another story.) McCain voted for both men. Even since the decision, he has praised the conservative justices and said he would try to name justices who resemble them. His votes, and his promises, should be weighed alongside his brief.

I think that looking for clues to what systematic judicial philosophy Senator McCain holds is unlikely to be a productive exercise. For good or ill, he doesn’t think about issues that way. But I don’t think his behavior suggests that he views a judge’s position on the constitutionality of campaign-finance regulations as a deal-breaker. 

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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