Flashback: The “Ginsburg Rule”
May 15, 2009, 4:05 pm
Filed under: Ian | Tags: , , ,

ginsburgSenator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Ranking Member, announced today that his party would be “aggressive” in questioning President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, warning that he didn’t think that Senate Republicans have been “aggressive enough . . . in inquiring into [past nominee’s] history, and how they are likely, based on their judicial philosophy, to have ruled in the future.”  He also added that “I think a lot of Republicans that voted for Ginsburg now believe that was probably a mistake.”

But just a few years ago, conservatives were singing a very different tune.

Once upon a time, President Bush was about to appoint a new justice, but he didn’t want the American people to figure out what a right-wing radical this new justice would be.  So President Bush’s friends at the Federalist Society had an idea; they’d find a strapping young conservative lawyer to cherry-pick quotes from a Democratic appointee’s confirmation hearings where the appointee declined to answer questions for one reason or another.  Then, they’d string these cherry-picked quotes together into a white paper which claimed that because one Democratic appointee didn’t answer a few questions in her confirmation hearings, that must mean that President Bush’s nominee didn’t have to answer any questions at all!

Thus, the “Ginsburg Rule” was born:

Roberts is not required to answer any questions, nor is he supposed to reveal his views on certain hot-button topics or how he would rule in a certain case. . . .

“You ask about their temperament, demeanor — you don’t get into the issues,” Alan Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming who sat on the Judiciary Committee, told FOX News.

He suggested Roberts follow what’s known as the “Ginsburg rule,” named after Justice Ruth Ginsburg who, during her own confirmation hearings, refused to answer many questions on those grounds and was told by Democratic senators that refusing to answer was fine by them.

“If it [confirmation process] hangs up on abortion and gay rights and the social issues, boy, I think the people of America will have their thumb down their throat,” Simpson added. “You can play games, you can ask things … that no one else would ever answer, and his best response is, ‘I’ll just respond as Justice Ginsburg did.'”

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said despite Democrats’ arguments, the Ginsburg rule “is not a myth, it is a reality.”

Now that President Obama will be picking the next justice, however, it looks like conservatives are singing another tune.  Suddenly, Justice Ginsburg wasn’t forthcoming enough, and the Ginsburg Rule is a myth after all.

Maybe the next time a conservative President is appointing justices, we’ll get to hear all about the “Sessions Rule,” which apparently says that only Democratic nominees have to answer questions in confirmation hearings.