Saturday, October 29, 2005

The White House trial balloon: Alito, Luttig or Cox?

White House sources have been sending the names of Judges Samuel Alito and Michael Luttig to ConfirmThem as the president's shortlist for the Supreme Court. Intense discussion continues over Chris Cox, now head of SEC.

What's going on is very clear. The White House is sending up a clear trial balloon, endeavoring to avoid the mishap of the previous nomination. The White House does not want to get blind-sided twice in a row (Roe?).

So I've posted a poll to see whom bloggers would tell the White House to pick. Although the trial balloon from the White House seems to focus on Alito/Luttig, it seemed good to see how many bloggers preferred Cox to either of them. I've given brief descriptions; much fuller data can be found at ConfirmThem.

1. Samuel Alito is 55. He is best known for his dissent in Casey--nonetheless, White House sources deem him unlikely to reverse Roe. Some bloggers think Casey proves otherwise. Senator Arlen Specter is said to support him and be a key ally. Alito has a BA from Princeton, a JD from Yale, worked for the Reagan Justice Department, and is on the short list of Robert Bork.

2. J. Michael Luttig is 51. He has a BA from Washington and Lee, a JD from University of Virginia. He clerked for Scalia duing Scalia's time on the Court of Appeals, then clerked for Warren Burger, and finally worked for the Bush 41 Justice Department. He is said to be personally close to both Scalia and Thomas; he is also on Robert Bork's short list.

3. Chris Cox is 53. He holds a BA from USC, and a JD and an MBA from Harvard. He served for two years as associate counsel to President Reagan involved with selecting federal court judges. Then he served 17 years as a US Congreessman and compiled a 100% pro-life voting record. He has been vigorously promoted for the Supreme Court at the National Review. He is currently head of the SEC.

White House trial balloon: Luttig, Alito or Cox?
J. Michael Luttig for Supreme Court
Samuel Alito for Supreme Court
Chris Cox for Supreme Court
Free polls from


At Friday, 28 October, 2005, Blogger Tom P said...

I voted for Chris Cox, but I'd be satisfied with any of the ones currently under the consideration of the buzz. I only hope there isn't another unhappy surprise.

At Friday, 28 October, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm... tough call. Anyone who's on Robert Bork's shortlist has my vote. Chris Cox seems very solid, and I like the other two as well. Hmphurm.
Hopefully we won't have another valley of 'quagmiers' (pardon the poor pun) with the next nominee. I was never really for her or against her... I honestly didn't know enough about her to make an informed decision. Then again, maybe I just didn't look hard enough for the information.

At Saturday, 29 October, 2005, Blogger GrenfellHunt said...

TomP: I voted for Cox as well.

But over at ConfirmThem, "LanceIto" has made an impressive argument for the notion that Alito signalled his opposition to Roe in Casey. See the link in my short summary of Alito.

I'm still mulling this over, but "LanceIto" has done a nice job, and Feddie also agrees that Alito would reverse Casey.

At Saturday, 29 October, 2005, Blogger GrenfellHunt said...


That's a great bunch of books you cite in your profile. Have you read Schaeffer's "Trilogy"? Great stuff...

Thanks for dropping by!

At Saturday, 29 October, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yuk - all three of these idealogs have demonstrated a desire to try to have a 1950's world in the year 2010. Good luck. What is ALWAYS needed are clear thinkers and justices who remain committed to the Framers while understanding that we live in a very different world from 1775.

And, really, why put all the emphasis on Roe v Wade anyhow? When it is finally overturned, people will travel to the blue states and get what they want. We need Justices who can deal with future global issues soundly!

At Saturday, 29 October, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The SEC guy is obviously not doing his job well. So why to promote him?
The other guys are ivy-league, dc insiders. Self-serving interests seem to have precedence over interests of electorate. Who care about Casey or Roe when much more crucial issues are at stake? Does not have to be a minority and a woman, attend the same school or have a similar breed of a dog. Needs to be bright, knowledgeble and capable of focusing on things that matter.

At Saturday, 29 October, 2005, Blogger GrenfellHunt said...

While I don't think Roe is the only issue, I do think opposition to Roe is the sine qua non of a serious approach to originalism. A judge who has the moxie to reverse Roe probably has the moxie to reverse other bad precedents. A judge who doesn't is probably offering a relatively watered-down approach to original intent.

It's also, of course, a key reason for why millions of (historically Democratic) social conservatives voted for W in 2004.


At Saturday, 29 October, 2005, Anonymous Doug Hoffer said...

I would be satisfied with any of the three, but I would prefer Alito or Luttig. I think having judicial experience will be a plus in the confirmation process.

I completely disagree with the anonymous post regarding returning to a 1950s world. What conservatives are hoping for is a justice who will respect the consitution enough to put it above his or her personal policy preferences. I think Grenfell did a good job of articulating the importance of rejecting Roe as an indication of how serious of an originalist a nominee is.

At Saturday, 29 October, 2005, Anonymous rg said...

I have always been amused by the argument that conservatives make that they seek a judge who will not engage in activism. Reading over the comments and reflecting on all of the commentary surrounding the Miers nomination and the Sciavo case, it remains clear that conservatives seek exactly activist conservative who would reverse long-standing precedents that have served this country well, and would reduce the Federal judiciary to deferential abdication of the Constitution's charge that an independent judiciary is crucial to our system. The conservatives seek exactly what they claim to abhor....judges who WILL "legislate" from the bench and invalidate some of the most important principles essential to Constitutional fidelity.....

At Saturday, 29 October, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You might wanna fix the typo in Mr. Cox's first name - " Christ Cox is 53" - before you are misinterpreted!

At Saturday, 29 October, 2005, Anonymous ras said...

Agreed that the WH is prob using its trial ballons as gauges, rather than diversions, this time. At least, one sure would hope so.

Of the three, Luttig might be fb'd. Cox? I dunno if the D's would fb him - could he be portrayed as a Republican politican and therefore a kinda/sorta crony?

But Alito looks like clean sailing, esp given the number of D's who voted to confirm him in 1990. Be pretty tough on them to claim "extraordinary circumstances" now. Add in Specter's support, and I think the odds tip nicely in his favor.

At Saturday, 29 October, 2005, Anonymous ras said...


btw, judicial activism - legislating from the bench - is neither a matter of upholding nor overturning precedent.

A Justice must uphold the constitution. If the Justice believes a previous decision to be unconstitutional, it would be activist to uphold it; that would simply constitutute a "me too" to an existing activist decision.

Reasons matter. Semantics do, too.

At Saturday, 29 October, 2005, Blogger GrenfellHunt said...

Anon: thanks for your remark: it's fixed!

ras: I'm not sure Alito can be filibustered, but his decision that wives can be required to notify their husbands about abortion risks making a lot of Middle American soccer moms really mad. Alito might be confirmed, and yet still hurt the GOP.

By contrast, the story with Luttig from the moment he's picked will be his murdered father. The Democrats can't filibuster a pick like that; at least not without really hurting themselves in the process. I see Luttig as basically bullet-proof.

Thanks for your comments!

At Saturday, 29 October, 2005, Blogger Tom P said...


I don't agree with you on this:

... his decision that wives can be required to notify their husbands about abortion risks making a lot of Middle American soccer moms really mad. Alito might be confirmed, and yet still hurt the GOP.

I think this is a generally uncontroversial policy position except among the most rabid pro-choicers, with about the same level of support as a ban on PBA.

Moreover, his dissent made a rock-solid case that a simple spousal notification requirement did not reach the "undue burden" threshold crafted in Roe.

It will be easy to defend both as policy and as law ... and isn't it a conversation we ought to have?

P.S.: I've heard an unsubstantiated rumor that you're currently based in Central America, and might be in the scopes of Hurricane Beta. If that's so, be safe, willya?

At Saturday, 29 October, 2005, Blogger GrenfellHunt said...


I thought Alito's case for his ruling on wives notifying husbands was meticulous and sound...but I worry about the sound bites. I've never seen a poll on this, and I hope you're right that it's non-controversial.

But if I were in the White House, I'd run a poll on this before I nominated him just to check on what the WH is getting into on this pick...


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