President George W. Bush on Justices Souter, Thomas, Roberts, And Alito

November 11th, 2014

In his new memoir about his father, 41, President George W. Bush weighs in on the Justices he, and his father appointed to the Supreme Court.

On Justice Souter, 43 heaps even more opprobrium on John Sununu:

Like Presidents before him, Dad also had an opportunity to influence the third branch of government, the judiciary. He replaced Supreme Court Justices William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall, two of the most liberal Justices of the twentieth century, with David Souter and Clarence Thomas. Souter, a former New Hampshire Supreme Court Justice recommended by John Sununu and Senator Warren Rudman, unexpectedly turned out to be almost as liberal as Brennan and Marshall.

Bush calls Thomas “one of hte most consistent and principled Justices.”

Clarence Thomas, an African-American who had grown up in rural poverty in Pin Point, Georgia, before working his way through Holy Cross College and Yale Law School, emerged as one of the most consistent and principled Justices of the Supreme Court.

And Thomas endured “one of the most unfair confirmation proceedings.”

To join the Court , Justice Thomas endured one of the most unfair confirmation proceedings in the history of the Senate. The focus of the hearings quickly turned away from his legal qualifications and judicial opinions to vicious personal smears. Democrats in the Senate called a parade of witnesses to impugn the nominee’s character with lurid details about alleged sexual harassment— a shameful display that Clarence Thomas rightly described as a “high-tech lynching.” During the hearing, the pressure to withdraw the nomination was enormous. I knew George Bush would never abandon a good man like Clarence Thomas.

And we gain this insight into the President’s mind during the confirmation process:

I remember talking to him after watching the coverage of the hearings on TV.

“This Thomas stuff is getting pretty nasty,” I said.

“You know what, son,” he said, “the worse they treat him, the more determined I am to get him confirmed.”

Dad meant what he said. After a lot of lobbying and hard work, the Senate confirmed Justice Thomas fifty-two to forty-eight, with eleven Democrats voting in his favor.

Next, 43 turns to his own experiences selective Justices. We can confirm that in 2005 he invited 5 Jurists for interviews. In his previous book, Decision Points, he wrote they were Samuel Alito, Edith Brown Clement, Michael Luttig, John Roberts, and J. Harvie Wilkinson.

Watching my father’s experience with Supreme Court nominations proved beneficial when I had the opportunity to appoint new Justices. I learned that it is essential for a President to fully vet nominees. Early in my presidency, I directed my counsel’s office to research potential Supreme Court nominees . When Justice Sandra Day O’Connor announced her resignation in 2005, I invited five jurists for one-on-one interviews at the White House Residence.

He wanted to check if their “philosophy would change with time.”

I had reviewed their judicial philosophies; what I really wanted to learn was their character and whether their philosophy would change with time. While all the candidates were outstanding, I was especially impressed by Judge John Roberts, a generous and humble man who had argued dozens of cases before the Supreme Court and was widely considered one of the best lawyers of his generation. I first nominated John for Justice O’Connor’s seat and later resubmitted his nomination for Chief Justice Rehnquist’s seat after the Chief Justice died.

The verdict is still out if JGR fits the mold. As for Alito, GWB hit it off due to a shared love of baseball.

For Justice O’Connor’s seat, I chose Sam Alito, a soft-spoken and brilliant judge whose love of the law was matched only by his passion for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Bush is still proud of both of them.

Both men have done me proud during their time on the Court.