Ever since Bush v. Gore, we’ve come to expect that federal courts will divide along predictable ideological lines: Judges appointed by Democrats are supposed to vote for Democratic priorities, while judges appointed by Republicans are supposed to prefer Republican priorities. In short, many people now assume judicial institutions will behave like legislative ones. But four recent decisions from the federal appellate courts call this assumption into question. On November 8, Judge Laurence Silberman, writing for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C.
The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen L. Carter (Alfred A. Knopf, 672 pp., $26.95) But for the fact that he has written a novel, Stephen L. Carter is not a novelist. He is a professor of law at Yale who made his debut in 1991 with a lively and candid book called Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby, a sober exploration of affirmative action and its effect on his life.
Although I have no special desire to be governor of Texas, and would actively prefer not to become head of the Office of Thrift Supervision (the poor soul charged with cleaning up the savings and loan mess), the traumas of aspirants to these posts in recent days compel me to make the following statement. It has been cleared with political consultants of both parties. Like many members of my generation—Senator Al Gore and Representative Newt Gingrich, to name but two—I too have experimented with marijuana in the distant past. It was in a party situation during my freshman year in college.
Even in the context of the Supreme Court tussles that have provided political entertainment since at least the 1930s, the 1987 saga of Robert Bork, Douglas Ginsburg and Anthony Kennedy broke new ground. What made the play rougher this time was the heightened consciousness of the power stakes, a more aggressive deployment of the interest groups, and a great sophistication in media use. If the overworked term “watershed” still conveys some meaning, it applies here to the future direction of confirmation politics.