The Big Mahatma
5:00 PM, Sep 24, 2004 • By JOSEPH BOTTUM
Laurence H. Tribe's God Save This Honorable Court (1985), p. 83: Taft publicly pronounced Pitney to be a "weak member" of the Court to whom he could "not assign cases."
Henry J. Abraham's Justices and Presidents (1974), p. 164: Taft publicly pronounced Pitney to be a "weak member" of the Court to whom he could "not assign cases."
Tribe, p. 80: The chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator George Norris, immediately made it clear to President Hoover that he and his fellow committee members, mostly Democrats and Progressive Republicans, would insist upon a liberal jurist in the Holmes mold.
Abraham, p. 191: But almost at once the Chairman of the Senate's Judiciary Committee, George W. Norris, made it plain to the President that he and his fellow committeemen, largely Democrats and Progressive Republicans, would insist on a judicial liberal in the Holmes mold.
Tribe, pp. 64-65: Although he rose to the Presidency in 1908 as Teddy Roosevelt's handpicked protégé, Taft was far more conservative and much less decisive than his political mentor. . . . Taft made a record six Supreme Court appointments in his single term in office. He put five new men on the Court and elevated Justice White to the position of Chief Justice. Although he was not as dogmatic in his conservatism as the late nineteenth-century Presidents, Taft was determined to avoid nominees of the liberal stamp of Learned Hand, Louis Brandeis, or Benjamin Cardozo. Taft regarded these potential candidates as nothing less than "destroyers of the Constitution."
Abraham, pp. 154-155: Although he was elected to and embarked upon the Presidency as Roosevelt's handpicked protégé, William Howard Taft's conception of the office differed dramatically from his predecessor's in style as well as substance. . . . Taft was far more conservative than T.R., cautious and at home with the G.O.P.'s conservative leadership. . . . In his single term Taft appointed six Justices to the Court, including one Chief Justice--at the time more than any President since George Washington. . . . [H]e wanted no "liberals" of the stamp of Learned Hand, Louis Brandeis, or Benjamin Cardozo, potential candidates whom he regarded as "destroyers of the Constitution."
Tribe, p. 83: While Senator Conkling mulled over the prospect, both nominee and nominator received a thorough roasting in the press. Amid widespread recognition that Conkling was unfit for the office, the Senate adhered to its tradition of always affirming its own and confirmed the nomination 39 to 12. President Arthur and the nation were spared a potentially disastrous appointment when Conkling capitulated to collective wisdom--and his better judgment--and declined the honor five days after his confirmation.
Abraham, pp. 129-130: [Conkling] pondered the matter for several days, during which time the press had a field day in lambasting nominator as well as nominee. True to its tradition of never rejecting one of its own, the Senate confirmed Conkling with a comfortable 39:12 margin on March 2, 1882. Yet to audible sighs of relief, Conkling formally declined five days later, after all. . . . In thus paying homage to his political spoilsman and teacher, Arthur had only narrowly been spared a potentially disastrous appointment.