Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Why did Bush the Elder appoint Sotomayor?

An argument you will hear again and again is that Sonia Sotomayor is really a moderate – after all George H. W. Bush appointed her.

Don’t buy that for a minute. Bush’s appointment was a political horse trade and nothing more:

. . . in 1992, the Senate was controlled by Democrats, and the two senators from New York were Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Republican Alphonse D'Amato.

By a number of accounts, Moynihan and D'Amato had a longstanding arrangement. "It was a special deal whereby D'Amato agreed to defer to the pick of Moynihan for one out of every four district court seats," another former Bush official told me. "That was a deal that preceded President Bush I, so basically Moynihan was picking one of four district court nominees." That deal stood even though Republicans controlled the White House and thus (theoretically) the right to choose judges for the federal courts.

And at that moment, in 1992, it was Moynihan's turn to choose, and his choice was Sotomayor. There is no evidence that anyone in the Bush I White House or Justice Department thought Sotomayor was a conservative, or even a moderate, but no one wanted a fight with Moynihan. "She was not our first choice," recalls a third Bush I official, "but she was someone who was, if we were going to get a nominee confirmed to that position -- essentially someone we had to go with."

Not to mention Bush the Elder’s judicial choices were not exactly stellar. He appointed Souter, after all.

No comments: