- The Washington Times - Friday, October 28, 2005

Now that Harriet Miers has come and gone, some pine for a centrist, mainstream Supreme Court justice nominee.

But true middle-of-the road centrism may no longer exist in the political spectrum. Democrats and the liberal Left have borrowed the idea to broaden their appeal in heartland America.

“When liberals say ‘centrist,’ they mean liberal. When liberals think mainstream, they mean David Souter or Ruth Bader Ginsberg,” said Judge Robert H. Bork, himself a former Supreme Court nominee. “They’re simply co-opting the rhetoric. But they also believe that anyone who interprets the Constitution as it was originally written is an extreme right-winger.”

Centrism was part of the Democrats’ playbook yesterday.

Sen. Thomas R. Carper, Delaware Democrat, pointed out that there were many “well-qualified, mainstream conservatives the president could choose,” adding that the Supreme Court choice should be about “competence and character” rather than ideology.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, recommended that the replacement have “a moderate, balanced approach and not be too far to the right, and not too far to the left.”

Karen Pearl, interim president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc., called for a “mainstream, fair-minded candidate.”

Ralph G. Neas, president of People For the American Way, advised President Bush to “choose a nominee with a great legal mind and mainstream legal philosophy.”

The mainstream, apparently, has become a friendly place for Democrats and liberals.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, for example, has been deemed a centrist convert this year by the Village Voice, the New York Times and National Public Radio. But centrism has been brewing for two decades in the party.

The Democratic Leadership Council — founded in 1985 and whose members have included former President Bill Clinton — espouses “a new public philosophy built on progressive ideals, mainstream values, and innovative, non-bureaucratic, market-based solutions.”

“It’s definitely true that the Left has discovered centrism. If you’re liberal and find you’re outnumbered by conservatives in America, then you try very hard not to call yourself a liberal. And when you’re labeled liberal, you think it’s name-calling,” said Rich Lowry of the National Review.

“The whole idea of a centrist nominee is in error, however. A centrist posture on the Supreme Court is not appropriate. Justices are not there to split the difference on the bench, to hand off one decision to the left and the next to the right. Their role is to interpret text,” he said.

Meanwhile, there are reasons why Democrats want a new centrist hue.

Their “brand” doesn’t work, said Michael Reynolds of the centrist political blog Mighty Middle.

“Think ‘Democrat’ and you think poor, black, old and Subaru-driving college professor with a ponytail. And, of course, you think abortion and two guys kissing. None of this works nearly as well as ‘small government, low taxes, strong defense and old-time morality,’ which is the GOP brand.”

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