January 3, 2007

"I see myself as a conservative, to tell you the truth."

Justice Stevens submitted to an interview on "Nightline" last night. I've got it TiVo'd, but I'll have to get to it later. Meanwhile, David Lat has some observations.

UPDATE: I'm catching up on the Stevens interview. (When they make the Jan Crawford Greenburg biopic, can they get Tina Majorino to play the lead?) Stevens seems amiable and lively, and what's he going to do but be a sweetheart about the recently departed President? But TiVo cut it off after a half hour, the first part of which was not Justice Stevens, so in the end I saw very little of him. I can, however, confirm David Lat's observation that he wore a big, fluffy bow tie and had terribly old-looking glasses.


Maxine Weiss said...

Happy New Year, Ann !!!!

Happy New Year, Everyone Everywhere !!!

That's a lot of people, huh?

Peace, Maxine

Anonymous said...

We've been hearing about Gerald Ford's legacy all week.

I would suggest that appointing John Paul Stevens to the court-- the man who more than anyone else personifies the court's liberal wing (and stands strongly for liberal values of fairness, equality and the rights of the individual) has become the strongest influence of Gerald R. Ford on today's world.

Al Maviva said...

He sees himself as a conservative, eh?

I'm sure he sees himself as attractive when he stands in front of a mirror naked, too. But that doesn't make it true.

Maxine Weiss said...

Once again, this is not the time, or the place to hear about Gerald Ford.

We're still all in the throes of the big New Years festivities, and contemplating the year ahead.

I truly truly truly don't understand why this need for all these Holiday funerals. I'm actually not amused by any of it.

If it's a gag, it's not funny. Maybe James Brown would have a Holiday Funeral because he was so wacky anyway.

I guess Gerald Ford was a bit of a buffoon anyway, but still you don't hold a State funeral over New Years.

I was in a Coffee House yesterday, and they've got the Ford funeral up on TV....to the strains of "Whattya Doin' New Year's Eve"...and Ford lying in his coffin set to "Old Langs Syne".

I'm still running Christmas music, so I'm basically watching the Funeral services set to "Have Yourself a Merry little Christmas".

So wrong. I think yesterday was a Federal Holiday (New Years) even. The schools were closed.

What on earth has gotten into Betty Ford. Don't tell me she's started drinking again.

Peace, Maxine

Simon said...

Well, I suppose that's conceivable. You could ask Kennedy the same question and get the same response. But as I see it, there is a difference between being a political liberal, or a political conservative, on the one hand, and being a legal liberal or a legal conservative on the other. The distinguishing characteristic of the legal liberal / conservative, it seems to me, is their vision of the courts and the Constitution, not the political ends that they prefer.

I've made this point before -- and have since learned that Ann has drawn the same conclusion, see Althouse, The Authoritative Lawsaying Power of the State Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court - Conflicts of Judicial Orthodoxy in the Bush-Gore Litigation, 61 Md. L. Rev. 508, 555 (2002) ("Generally, the conservative side of the Court has been more enthusiastic about enforcing the structural parts of the Constitution, and the liberal Justices have been more enthusiastic about enforcing individual rights"); see also id. at 552 n.193 (in Bush, "Justice Breyer took the position" - which I think reflects the legal liberal's general mindset - "that issues involving fundamental rights are more worthy of the Supreme Court's attention than the mere structural constitutional matters"), but I promise that I read that for the first time yesterday, and had reached the same conclusion independently -- but the distinguishing characteristic is whether they give primacy to the structural parts of Constitution or the rights-bearing parts of the Constitution.

So it might well be the case that Stevens and Kennedy are somewhat conservative in their politics, but neither are particularly so in their jurisprudence.

DonSurber said...

I see myself as God's gift to women.

Does that count?

SteveR said...

I suppose getting to see Jan Crawford Greenburg, makes the whole thing worth it.

It may be curious why he thinks he's a "conservative" but we'll have to wait another 30 years for a follow up.

By the way, in case you didn't know, I see myself as a paragon of humility, to tell you the truth.

Maxine, how do you really feel about the Ford funeral?

Anonymous said...

Don's comment opens up a whole host of competing comments.

Here's my contribution.

I see myself as a slightly younger, slightly taller, slightly hotter Johnny Depp.

As far as Justice Stevens, I was struck by the headline run by ABC to accompany the interview:

"Justice Appointed by Ford Remembers the Late President"

I should hope so (otherwise maybe he shouldn't be on the bench).

Pogo said...

Justice Stevens is to "conservative" as Gerald Ford is to "currently alive".

hdhouse said...

donsurber...probably not.

i see stevens as a teller of truth and a reasonable man. that goes a long way in the era of scalia and thomas.

ohhh for term limits on the supreme court...

"i hereby appoint thee for a period not to exceed 20 years or until you become so radicalized that God refuses to save you"

Anonymous said...


I agree with the distinction you make in most respects, but I have a perhaps semantic objection.

I don't like the phrase "legal conservative" because I think it suggests a broader jurisprudential conservatism than is warranted. The current Supreme Court Justices who are regarded as conservatives might just as easily be regarded as moderate to liberal in their interpretations of statutes or the common law. Scalia in particular (as I'm sure you know better than I) has disclaimed any general preference for strict or liberal construction of legislative text, describing such an approach aptly as putting one's thumb on the scale.

It is only in constitutional cases that the practicioner of originalism or textualism can be called conservative (and even in that context it isn't conservatism so much as respect for original meaning). I think the term "legal conservative" is therefore too broad, as it suggests a uniformly conservative jurisprudential approach. The reality is that only in the context of constitutional law are there benchmarks by which the Scalia-Thomas wing can be called "conservative."

In contrast, what I think is reflected in the opinions of the liberal justices, Stevens included, is both jurisprudential and political liberalism. To select one of many examples, look at affirmative action cases—Grutter in particular.

To vote as they do, the liberals must not only regard the 14th Amendment as more malleable than the text would seem to permit, but also must make a normative judgment about the worthiness of “diversity” as an educational objective. To conclude that it is a worthy (indeed “compelling”) public policy objective to use public universities as laboratories for racial engineering experimentation is to state a policy preference. A court determined not to advance a political agenda would not take sides on the fundamentally political question whether it is appropriate for universities to seek a particular racial mix of students. The Grutter court not only picked a side, but held that its preferred outcome rises to the level of a compelling public policy objective. That, Justice Stevens, is not conservatism.

Revenant said...

Eugene Volokh pointed out that Stevens may simply have meant "conservative" in the sense of "not wanting to change established law".

If he meant that he's politically conservative, it is hard to see where the evidence of that might be.

SMGalbraith said...

I see myself as just dreamy.

Really dreamy. Especially in the morning with drool on my lip, my hair looking like Albert Einstein's coiffure, and my left eyelid twitching uncontrollably.

The USS Dreamboat.

Apparently, Justice Stevens and I think alike.

Mike said...

Only one explanation: Alzheimers.

Maxine Weiss said...

I can't believe how "bare bones" (no pun) it is?

Where's the parade down Pennsylvania Ave?

Where's the Horseless Carriage, or the Carriage-less Horse, or whatever?

Where's the catafalque?

What's a catafalque, anyway?

You know, I realize he was only President a short time, but he was still President, and we are supposed to honor our Presidents in a certain manner, no matter how they came to Office, or the duration of time they spent.

Good Grief, Sonny Bono got more bells and whistles ...and he was Sonny Bono !

I guess JFK is the standard for Presidential funerals.

But I remember the pomp and glory of the Reagan funeral and how the timing and events of that one went off without a hitch.

This Gerald Ford thing is like a big joke around here.

If only they'd waited till next week, I think people would take it a bit more seriously.

Peace, Maxine

Jonathan said...

Really? I makes me winch to think what his definition of "liberal" would be. Does he also think the New York Times is conservative?

Simon said...

Jeff_d said...
"Simon[,] I agree with the distinction you make in most respects, but I have a perhaps semantic objection. I don't like the phrase 'legal conservative' because I think it suggests a broader jurisprudential conservatism than is warranted."

I'll concede that it's an inartful phrase, but the difficulty is in finding a good alternative. What I'm trying to describe by it is not so much a particular jurisprudential theory as a basic way of looking at law, a paradigm, which requires a term that is broad enough to encompass several theories, but not so broad as to be meaningless. It wouldn't do, for example, to substitute "formalist" for "legal conservative" here, because that term is too narrow: the late Chief Justice, of course, was a "legal conservative," but whatever one could say about Rehnquist, I don't think that he could honestly be called a formalist. I am open to suggestions. ;)

Here's the real question: it seems to me that whatever term you use, you have to make sure that Justice Black fits onto the outer edge. Black -- in his later years, at any rate, back when judges tended to "evolve" to the right if at all -- strikes me as a borderline political liberal / legal conservative. Justice Kennedy, on the other hand, strikes me as an apt example of the converse, a political conservative / legal liberal.

"Scalia in particular ... has disclaimed any general preference for strict or liberal construction of legislative text, describing such an approach aptly as putting one's thumb on the scale."

Correct - "I’m not a 'strict constructionist,' despite the introduction. I don’t like the term 'strict construction.' I do not think the Constitution, or any text should be interpreted either strictly or sloppily; it should be interpreted reasonably. Many of my interpretations do not deserve the description 'strict.' I do believe, however, that you give the text the meaning it had when it was adopted." See generally A Matter of Interpretation (1998 ed.) at 23-25.

XWL said...
"Don's comment opens up a whole host of competing comments. Here's my contribution. I see myself as a slightly younger, slightly taller, slightly hotter Johnny Depp."

As anyone reading the last paragraph will guess, I see myself as an Acolyte of Justice Scalia. ;)

Steve Donohue said...

I have the hugest, nerdiest crush on Jan Crawford Greenburg, ever since the Roberts hearings. Is that pathetic?

Bissage said...

Maxine is a precious jewel and quite possibly the savior of us all. I hope she never dies!

(Okay. I stole that last bit from “The Lion in Winter.”)

Bissage said...

Oh, by the way, since everyone keeps asking, I’ll admit it.

Yes, it’s true. I see myself as Daniel Craig, except with a bigger d*ng*s.

There! Let’s see an internet security d*rty w*rd figurer-outer figure out that one!


Maxine Weiss said...

Betty Ford Vodka Watch:

Isn't anyone concerned that this poor woman, this newly old widow--- is gonna start in drinking again?

Is she stammering yet?

If losing a spouse isn't enough to throw ya off the wagon I don't know what is.

Did the maids lock up the liquor cabinet yet?

Her poor husband barely got any kind of send-off. They slapped the guy on piece of cement and said "See ya"!

Sad that this is how we treat a former President. No parade, no cortege, no nothin'.

Can't be bothered to do a proper burial or ceremony, and certainly not at a reasonable time.

Peace, Maxine

Anonymous said...


Death isn't something you can put on a schedule. Well, maybe you can but us mere mortals, well, we die when we die and there isn't much we can do about it. Consider that it's possible that the funeral is being held over New Year's because God decided that Gerald and Betty Ford loved each other so much that he would let them share one more Christmas together.

Besides, if you didn't want to watch Ford's funeral, then you could always change the channel to Toon Disney and not have to let a thought of Gerald R. Ford enter your pretty little head.

Anonymous said...

And one other fact about the Ford funeral being over New Years. Yesterday (Jan. 2) was declared by George Bush to be a national day of mourning, so the stock exchange and most other financial markets were closed, as were a lot of Federal and state government offices. Some schools which had scheduled to begin yesterday, began today instead. A lot of businesses also closed yesterday. So, there were a lot of people who got a day longer of vacation. So they probably consider that the timing was pretty decent.

hdhouse said...

Maxine - speaking of drinking.....