Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Sandra Day O'Connor pays for her sins

There's a sad irony in that retired Supreme Court Justice O'Connor is one of the people who's paid a higher-than-average price for having Bush as president, ironic in that it's her fault. This has come out in several interviews by Jeffrey Toobin about his new book on the Supreme Court.

O'Connor is famous/infamous for not having a consistent legal philosophy driving her decisions, instead approaching each case separately. The danger in her style is that it's easy to let extraneous factors decide the case, like her belief in 2000 that Bush should win the election and the Florida debacle revolved around lazy and incompetent voters.

So O'Connor makes Bush president as part of the 5-4 majority vote in Bush v. Gore. Then as Toobin says at the link above, she doesn't take long to regret his presidency.

I can't find a link for this, but I also heard Toobin say in an interview that O'Connor had wanted to outlast the Bush administration so another, better president could appoint her replacement. She decided she couldn't do that though when her husband's Alzheimer condition deteriorated. She wanted to spend what remaining time he had with him, and announced her intention to resign. But O'Connor couldn't leave the court though until both she and Rehnquist had been replaced, and due to the Harriet Miers stupidity, it took months. By the time she could actually retire, her husband no longer recognized her and had to be institutionalized.

Had she done the right thing in 2000 and not stood in Gore's way, I expect she also would have tried to outlast the Democratic president. But when she couldn't, her resignation wouldn't have been caught up in a Harriet Miers spectacle, so she could actually leave when she wanted.

Bush cost O'Connor the last meaningful-relationship months of her long marriage. I agree with Toobin that it's a personal tragedy, although thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of others have paid a higher price. In O'Connor's case, the irony is in her responsibility.

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