by Max Brantley
Linda Greenhouse writes here to lament the defeat of yet another supremely qualified — and non-ideological — appointee to a federal appeals court. It was a party line Senate vote to block Caitlin Halligan's appointment. The Republican strategy, thanks to filibuster abuse, is to allow only appointment of conservative judges to the bench. It's another illustration of a dysfunctional Congress, led by Republican tricks. But Greenhouse also uses the occasion to review the pitiful history compiled by the self-proclaimed brilliant historian Newt Gingrich on the federal courts. His misunderstandings include the landmark Little Rock desegregation case.
Perhaps strangest of all is Mr. Gingrich’s attack on Cooper v. Aaron, the court’s celebrated response to the Little Rock school crisis of 1958. The unanimous opinion, signed individually by all nine justices for emphasis, held that Arkansas and all other states were bound by the court’s interpretation of the equal protection guarantee four years earlier in Brown v. Board of Education. Cooper v. Aaron was, as Justice Breyer writes in his recent book, “Making Our Democracy Work,” essential in its time and part of the “hard-earned victory for the rule of law” that the Little Rock story became. Newt Gingrich is unmoved. Cooper v. Aaron’s assertion of the Supreme Court’s authority, he writes, was “factually and historically false.”
Add it to the growing list of Newtron bombs that will enliven the campaign season but bode ill for the republic.