The Right Comes of Age

By Lindberg, Tod | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 27, 2001 | Go to article overview

The Right Comes of Age


Lindberg, Tod, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


The Bush administration's decision no longer to submit names of judicial nominees to the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary for advance evaluation of their qualifications represents a certain coming-of-age for conservatives in the GOP. The move reflects a new clarity of thinking about where conservatives fit in the scheme of things. Here's the problem: The American Bar Association, as any conservative will tell you, is a left-leaning organization through and through. On any number of issues if not, indeed, on all issues on which it takes positions, from abortion rights to tort reform, the ABA is closer to the Democratic Party than the Republican Party.

But that's only Part I. Part II is that the ABA has long had standing as a "professional organization." It has cast itself in the role of the keeper of the conscience of the legal profession (seriously, folks), and accordingly a body disinterested enough to undertake such activities as neutrally reviewing the qualifications of nominees for the federal bench.

Now, the old-style GOP case against the ABA goes something like this: By changing its evaluation criteria in the 1980s to allow for consideration of the possible effect of nominees' supposedly "extreme" views on their "judicial temperament," the ABA essentially politicized the process of assessing qualifications. The most abhorrent result of this was the vote in 1987, leaked to the press, of a minority of four members of the review committee for a "not qualified" rating for Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork. This was pure politics. One might oppose Mr. Bork on the grounds that his method of constitutional interpretation yields results not to one's liking, but he had long established a reputation as one of the nation's foremost legal scholars. The ABA, flying the false flag of disinterested professional assessment, was actually working to advance a liberal agenda. This traditional conservative critique of the ABA was, unsurprisingly, of a piece with the conservative critique of liberal media bias - a phony "objectivity" masking a left-leaning agenda.

The problem with this critique is the ready response to it from the organizations in question: Interested? Hidden agenda? Moi? From ABA to ABC, a straightforward denial of any such bias was the general reply, leaving conservatives with little more to do than update their evidence and restate their charges.

The ABA would then be free to trace the origin of its review role to the Eisenhower administration and to insist that its professional review committee operates entirely independently of any of the organization's positions on issues. Other liberal-leaning organizations (the big media, again) would validate the independent authority of the ABA in this case. And conservatives would see themselves as stuck, unable to get through the force field of phony objectivity and disinterestedness. …

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