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  The Last Conservative
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Last EditedRP  May 01, 2009 08:32pm
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MediaWeekly News Magazine - New Republic, The
News DateSaturday, May 2, 2009 02:00:00 AM UTC0:0
DescriptionThe Supreme Court will lose its only true conservative this summer when Justice David Souter packs up his Volkswagen and drives north one last time. Yes, you read that right. His votes may well have upheld and further entrenched liberal results, but Souter has been the court's only true judicial conservative for the past 19 years.

When George H.W. Bush's chief of staff--New Hampshire's rock-ribbed, right-wing former governor John Sununu--urged his boss to appoint David Hackett Souter to the U.S. Supreme Court, joy erupted across the right wing of the Republican Party. Here was an originalist--a quiet, determined, and dedicated conservative. And he would be replacing William Brennan, the court's most determined (and successful) liberal voice.

Within a few years, those same supporters would curse Souter's name. How could this so-called conservative be one of the key votes that upheld the last shreds of Roe v. Wade (in 1992's Planned Parenthood v. Casey)? What sort of conservative would vote against George W. Bush in his Supreme Court battle with Al Gore in the 2000 election? What sort of a conservative rules against prayer in schools (Lee v. Weisman 1992), and votes to end the male-only policy of the Virginia Military Institute (US v. Virginia 1996)?

A conservative justice, that's who. Souter's departure offers a timely reminder that when it comes to the courts, we need to be careful about our terms. Though Souter's decisions were welcomed by ideological and partisan liberals, they were judicially conservative decisions. In fact, his were among the only consistently conservative decisions the court has known for the last two decades.
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