May 1st, 2009
02:24 PM ET
13 years ago

Conservatives prepare for Supreme battle

WASHINGTON (CNN) - There are few issues that rally conservatives as much as a Supreme Court nomination - and activists are wasting no time gearing up for a battle.

Conservative groups worked into the night Thursday after news broke of Justice David Souter’s retirement to arrange a conference call early Friday morning to talk strategy with representatives of more than 60 groups.

Leaders on the call, such as Wendy Long of the Judicial Confirmation Network, told colleagues that one of their first challenges is convincing activists there is a fight to be had.

"One thing to keep in mind is that the left and media will say this doesn't really matter - Obama will just replace a liberal with a liberal,” Long said. “It's a conservative court. We need to push back against that immediately.”

Curt Levy, also of the Judicial Confirmation Network, argued to the nearly 200 activists on the conference call that this can "be a winning issue" for conservatives if they focus on what he called the "right issues" such as same sex marriage, death penalty and the Second Amendment - issues that can split Democrats.

"If [President Obama] was to nominate somebody who was anti-death penalty, pro-gay marriage, you know – took a very extreme view on the separation of church and state, etc, or against any restriction on partial birth abortion… I think this could really be a 70-30 type issue for the Republican Party." said Levy, meaning it would have 70 percent support from Republicans.

Conservative activists also made it clear that they're concerned about whether Republican senators have the stomach for this fight, since they know going in that Democrats have a nearly filibuster proof majority.

"We've really got to make it clear that we have certain expectations for Republican senators," Levy said, "Including the fact that they study the nominee and not run to the podium to endorse the nominee whoever it is.”

Another member of the Judicial Confirmation Network, Gary Marx, said he has the same concerns.

"We need to really be focused on putting wind in the sails of these Republican senators at this stage of the battle," said Marx.

The conservative coalition, which formed to support President Bush's Supreme Court nominees, is already targeting three potential Obama picks: Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Diane Wood.

An email with talking points for conservatives describes Kagan, who now serves as the solicitor general, as someone lacking judicial experience who is "disturbingly out of the mainstream.”

The conservatives argue Sotomayor, now an appellate judge, has a "hard-left record" who believes that judges should consider experiences of women and people of color in their decision making. They also described her as a "bully" who "abuses lawyers."

And conservatives are arguing that Wood, a circuit court judge, incorporates her personal views into her decisions.

"Judge Wood's judicial views have on occasion been far outside mainstream legal thought and appear driven by her personal policy views. In NOW v. Scheidler, she wrote an opinion applying RICO – a statute designed for mob prosecutions – to prevent pro-life activists from engaging in protests. The Supreme Court reversed with Justices Ginsburg's and Breyer's concurrence," reads the conservative talking points.

Updated: 2:24 p.m.

Filed under: David Souter • Supreme Court
soundoff (190 Responses)
  1. K, California

    This 'fight' that the concervatives think theyre going to have with Obama, will actually end up making the GOP even more irrelevant as people will realize how out-dated their ideology is.

    May 1, 2009 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  2. j

    ---- Here comes the party of " NO ". If history is any clue, this will be a battle-royal and the neo-cons will be in full battle dress. However, if the "battle" rages too long, they will seal their own fate forever as the party of NO. This can make or break the present Republican party.

    May 1, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  3. Sandy G.

    Gee, how about a new justice who knows the law, reads the law and then applies it? How about another justice just like Justice Souter? How refreshing.

    May 1, 2009 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  4. Ken

    Wendy Long: "One thing to keep in mind is that the left and media will say this doesn't really matter — Obama will just replace a liberal with a liberal,” Long said. “It's a conservative court. We need to push back against that immediately.”
    Yes, conservatives want a wingnut on the bench who will vote for assault weapons for everyone and vote against abortion and gay marriage. That's all they care about. It would be amusing if it weren't so pathetic. We need a thoughtful justice who will look at all the complicated issues that come before the Court with a reasoned and educated mind, not a conservative judicial activist who writes his own opinions into the law. Oh wait - conservatives don't call them "judicial activists", they say they "support the Constitution".

    And I hate to break it to ya, honey, but it ain't "a conservative court" just because you want it to be.

    May 1, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  5. Susan

    Bring it on, pro-life whackos!

    May 1, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  6. Christina

    How far right do you have to be to think that someone who considers the experiences of women and "people of color" is hard-left? Really? You have to be able to come up with better arguments than that.

    May 1, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  7. Tim, Seattle

    "can "be a winning issue" for conservatives if they focus on what he called the "right issues" such as same sex marriage, death penalty and the Second Amendment"....

    Yaaawwwnnnn.......So here we are back to the stale GOP culture war issues od Gays, God and Guns.......will they never learn?

    Gosh its fun watching the GOP implode. I havent been this politically happy in 10 years
    Pass the popcorn.

    May 1, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  8. Ghost

    Screw these people and Steele. He is free to nominate whom he pleases. And guess what? Whoever he picks will be LIBERAL!!!!

    Deal with it. We had to.

    May 1, 2009 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  9. Linda from Minnesota

    He announced he is retiring just today and already the conservatives are ready to "fight" President Obama's potential replacements for him. If they are ready to fight before even knowing who they are going to fight against, that tells me alot. They are fighting just to fight and throw up another roadblock.

    The old republican party was a party of fiscal responsibility and small government. That old party has been hijacked by the conservative Christian right. Fine with me, I don't care if the republicans ever make a comeback.

    May 1, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  10. Kelly Stephens

    So, the "right issues" are the ones that can split the opposition party. That's a pretty screwed up way to set your judicial priorities.

    May 1, 2009 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  11. Vic of New York

    After Regan, Bush-I, and Bush-II, having done all they could to stuff the court with cookie-cutter conservatives - my take on Republican commentary is this: "Stick it in your ear!"

    May 1, 2009 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  12. DShirley

    Conservatives continue to amaze me! They cry about "activist" judges and "social engineering". So I guess the constitution was flawless that we had to amend it to end slavery, ensure voting rights of all, and liberate women!!

    Can someone please tell me what brand of conservatism works best!? And from what era!?

    May 1, 2009 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  13. AM

    The conservatives are not going to be happy with Mr. Obama's choice but the good thing is there is really nothing they can do to block the president's nomination. If Al Franken is sworn in they won't even be able to filibuster.

    It will be interesting to see

    May 1, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  14. Tom Paine

    Anyone interested in protecting their property rights will say "good riddance" to Souter after the Kelo decision. Of course, Obama's replacement probably won't be any better.

    May 1, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
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