Reagan, Meese Trying to Exorcise Warren's Ghost from High Court

Article excerpt

NEW YORK - Once again Messrs. Reagan and Meese are working the old brilliant-mind scam on the Senate.

Last time, they used it the aim was to get Justice Rehnquist the title of Chief Justice of the United States. Now the beneficiary is to be Judge Robert Bork, possessor of a mind so brilliant, we are told, that no one who loves justice can decently oppose putting him on the Supreme Court.

Brilliance, of course, has little to do with what's going on.

What Messrs. Reagan and Meese are up to is exorcising the ghost of Earl Warren, which has given them fits for 30 years.

There is a big part of their constituency that still remembers saluting ``Impeach Earl Warren'' billboards up and down the country. For most of the Reagan years, however, this group has got short shrift from the White House.

This was because the administration's first priorities were to shake the money tree for the well-to-do and beef up the Pentagon. That didn't leave much time, energy or political capital to spend on undoing Earl Warren via congressional action.

In any case, Congress had little desire to reverse 30 years of Supreme Court history which had profoundly changed the nature of the United States. Congressmen tend to be more conservative than California politicians like Messrs. Meese and Reagan. This is because congressmen like to get re-elected, something that can fail to happen to congressmen who want drastic changes in the world's daily routine.

The Reagan alternative was to pounce whenever it saw opportunities to station righties on the Court. This is doubtless what Messrs. Meese and Reagan would tell you they're up to if you could question them under truth serum. And what's wrong with that?

Campaigning presidential candidates commonly discuss the court and the kind of justices they will appoint if elected. Ronald Reagan has always let everybody know that, given the chance, he would exult in creating a court to reverse the decisions of the past 30 years.

In short, that he would appoint justices who were in ideological agreement with him. When appointment time rolls around, however, the very mention of ideology is met with offended protests, and not only from the president's stewards. …

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