Justice Stevens on This Week

April 20th, 2014

Justice Stevens sat down with George Stephanopoulos to talk about his new book on This Week.  The softball interview, about five minutes long, didn’t include any tough questions. His speech was somewhat slurred–similar to his delivered dissent in Citizens United–but was coherent. Stevens, when asked if he became a radical said, “I think every one of my proposals is a moderate.” And he genuinely believed that all of these amendments would pass. The host basically laughed at that suggestion.

On the Second Amendment, Stevens insisted that the Second Amendment only protected the right of the state militias (even though his amendment would do NOTHING to restore this incorrect original meaning). He told the host that nothing in the Constitution should place limits on guns.

The host actually asked about the Gerrymandering amendment, and said it was “pretty subjective.” Stevens replied that it doesn’t take a genius to find gerrymandering. Stephanopoulos, somewhat incredulous, said this was like Potter Stewart’s test for obscenity,”You know it when you see it.” Stevens seemed pleased by that comparison, and said Potter Stewart would agree with me about gerrymandering.

The most interesting potion of the interview came at the end when Stephanopoulos asked if a retiring Justice should consider the political party of the President who would appoint his or her replacement. Stevens insists he did not consider what President would replace him. He focused on concerns about his own health. It is widely rumored that Justice Souter stuck it out long enough for a Democrat to replace him, and Justice Stevens didn’t want two retirements in one year.

But then, Stevens said it was appropriate to think about President who appointed his replacement. “You have to have interest in who will fill your shoes.” That statement was stunning. 

Then, Stephanopoulos asked about Justice Ginsburg. “I’d say Justice Ginsburg doesn’t need my advice.” But RBG did ask advice when she became senior associate justice.

In closing, Stephen said he did the best he could, but I didn’t do good enough. I get the sense that he really feels like he didn’t shape the law in the way he wanted, and is using his post-retirement writings to pursue that goal.

Expect many more softball interviews.