Anderson Cooper divulged some interesting information while asking an interesting question during the CNN debate last night with the remaining Republican nominees for president:
On July 6, 1981… Ronald Reagan wrote in his diary about Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. And the Reagan Library has graciously allowed us to actually have the original Reagan diary right here on the desk….
And in it, he wrote by his hand, he said, “Called Judge O’Connor in Arizona and told her she was my nominee for Supreme Court. Already the flak is starting, and from my own supporters. Right-to-life people say she’s pro-abortion. She declares abortion is personally repugnant to her. I think she’ll make a good justice.”…
[W]as she the right choice?…
Certainly Reagan’s thoughts on O’Connor have been public information for a long time, but not to me. Recall at the time Roe was only 8 years young, and parsing on being “personally” pro-life had not yet bloomed into what we know it to be today: functionally pro-abortion.
Also interesting is that Reagan apparently asked O’Connor The Question, and she apparently answered him or made her ideology public, a point Republicans and judicial nominees intensely avoid these days, thinking the code phrase “strict constructionist” rather than “pro-life” fools anyone.
The candidates’ transcribed answers are below. To summarize, Huckabee refused to answer but gave a mini-speech on being pro-life; Paul said no; McCain refused to answered but reiterated he would appoint justices in the mold of Roberts and Alito, “who have a proven record of strict interpretation of the Constitution”; Romney said no, reiterating same, and adding Scalia and Thomas to his list.
Candidates’ responses to Cooper question on whether they would have nominated Sandra Day O’Connor as Supreme Court justice, as Reagan did:
HUCKABEE: History will have to determine that, and I’m not going to come to the Reagan Library and say anything about Ronald Reagan’s decisions. I’m not that stupid. If I was, I’d have no business being president.
I think we need to talk about why the issue of right-to-life is important. For many of us, this is not a political issue; this is an issue of principle and conviction. And it goes to the heart of who we are as a country.
If we value each other as human beings and believe that everybody has equal worth, and that that intrinsic value is not affected by net worth, or ancestry, or last name, or job description, or ability, or disability, then the issue of the sanctity of human life is far bigger than just being anti-abortion.
It’s about being pro-life and exercising that deep conviction held by our founding fathers that all of us are equal and no one is more equal than another, recognizing that once we ever decide that some people are more equal or less equal than others, then we start moving that line, and it may include us some day.
And that’s why for many of us — and me included. Let me be very clear: I’m pro-life. I value every human being. And I would always make every decision always on the side of life every time I could, without equivocation.
COOPER: Yes or no, Congressman Paul, was Sandra Day O’Connor the right choice?
PAUL: I wouldn’t have appointed her, because I would have looked for somebody that I would have seen as a much stricter constitutionalist.
COOPER: Senator McCain?
MCCAIN: I’m proud of Sandra Day O’Connor as a fellow Arizonan. And my heart goes out to her family in that situation that they have today. And I’m proud of her.
The judges I would appoint are along the lines of Justices Roberts and Alito, who have a proven record of strict interpretation of the Constitution of the United States of America. I’m not going to second-guess President Reagan.
COOPER: Governor Romney?
ROMNEY: I would approve justices — I would have favored justices like Roberts and Alito, Scalia and Thomas. I like justices that follow the Constitution, do not make law from the bench. I would have much rather had a justice of that nature.