The Anti-Souter Has Arrived
“Please God, no more Souters.”
That’s how Alabama Atty. Gen. Bill Pryor concluded a speech to the Federalist Society on July 11, 2000. But the words were still ringing in the ears of Judiciary Committee Democrats last Wednesday when Pryor appeared for a confirmation hearing on his nomination to the Atlanta-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), who has supplanted Sen. Teddy Kennedy (Mass) as the most obnoxious Democrat on the committee, was literally obsessed with Pryor’s views on Souter.
“Do you think he’s out of the mainstream?” asked Schumer with a straight face.
“I wouldn’t use those terms,” said Pryor coyly. “I would say that his interpretations in several cases in which I have personally been involved, are different from mine, and I have disagreed with them.”
This seemed only to provoke Schumer. “I don’t think Souter is regarded as any more liberal than the other three justices who are regarded as sort of on the more liberal side-Ginsburg, Breyer and Stevens. Why have you singled out Souter in your comments?”
When Pryor said it was because he had been criticizing one of Souter’s dissenting opinions in the same speech, this seemed to provoke Schumer further.
“But why did you pick Souter?” he asked.
“But again, you think Souter is within the mainstream?” he repeated.
“I don’t know if I’m the evaluator of who is in the mainstream or not,” answered Pryor.
But eventually Schumer got down to the real reasons he and other Judiciary Committee Democrats have their knives out for this Bush nominee: He is the most forthright, outspoken, limited government, constitutionalist conservative nominated to a federal appeals court in recent memory.
Asked Schumer: “Now, you’ve said on occasion, on several occasions that Roe v. Wade is ‘the worst abomination in the history of constitutional law.’ Do you believe that as of right now?”
“I do,” said Pryor.
Although Pryor bobbed and weaved a bit-perhaps reflecting the coaching of White House political types-when Schumer pushed him to cite the specific circumstances under which he would ask the Supreme Court to overturn Roe, the nominee never repudiated or violated any of the principles he has advanced in his remarkable career as Alabama’s attorney general.
As flabbergasted analysts at People for the Americans Way detailed in a long dossier, these principles include not only protecting the right to life, but also protecting the rights of states against a federal government that would abuse the Commerce Clause to regulate virtually all intrastate activity, and the conviction that traditional moral values have always informed, and should continue to inform, the U.S. legal and constitutional tradition.
Republican sources believe Pryor will win a party-line vote in committee, meaning Democrats will have to filibuster him-as they are now filibustering Miguel Estrada and Priscilla Owen-to stop him.
If there was ever a nominee worth fighting for, Bill Pryor is it.