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Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Lessons in Legacies

Following the death of former president Gerald R. Ford last week, ABC News’s Jan Crawford Greenburg dubbed Justice John Paul Stevens “one of President Ford’s most enduring legacies.” And she’s not alone. In a letter last year, President Ford himself praised the jurist, who was the former president's only appointee to the high court: “I am prepared to allow history’s judgment of my term in office to rest (if necessary, exclusively) on my nomination thirty years ago of Justice John Paul Stevens to the U.S. Supreme Court.” He lauded Justice Stevens for his “charming wit and sense of humor” and for “carrying out his judicial duties with dignity, intellect, and without partisan political concerns.”

Faced with filling the seat of retiring Justice William O. Douglas in 1975, President Ford bucked intense pressure from the right wing of his party to nominate archconservative Robert Bork. Instead, he chose Justice Stevens for his “sterling credentials.” For that, we can all breathe one great big sigh of relief. Now, unfortunately, the credential that seems to matter most to this administration is hard-right ideology. We wish that President Bush would take a lesson from President Ford.

In an interview this week, Justice Stevens, who was confirmed 98-0, was asked if he would be confirmed unanimously today.

His answer? “Probably not.”

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