When Donald Trump names his nominee for the Supreme Court on Tuesday night, judicial conservatives will evaluate his choice according to one simple rule: No Souters.
The 1990 Supreme Court appointment of David Souter is remembered by conservatives as a massive missed opportunity. William Brennan, who despite being picked by Dwight Eisenhower was perhaps the single most liberal justice in the history of the Supreme Court, was retiring, and George H.W. Bush had an opportunity to replace him with a reliable conservative. Conservatives had been burned by the Senate's rejection of ardent originalist Robert Bork when Ronald Reagan had nominated him three years earlier, and didn't want a squish like Anthony Kennedy (who wound up getting the seat intended for Bork as a compromise pick), or another Republican-appointed liberal like John Paul Stevens or Harry Blackmun.
Souter lacked Bork's long paper trail on hot-button issues, but he came highly recommended by Republican politicians from his home state of New Hampshire, such as former governor turned White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu and Sen. Warren Rudman. The NAACP and National Organization for Women strongly opposed Souter's nomination, arguing that he had been excessively critical of affirmative action in the past and evasive about his views on Roe v. Wade, and while he ultimately won confirmation pretty easily, a number of liberal senators like Bill Bradley, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, and Barbara Mikulski voted against him.
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