Back when Sandra Day O’Connor was still on the Supreme Court, busy saving affirmative action and the right to abortion, liberals who wanted a reason to forgive her vote in Bush v. Gore often asked me — begged me — to assure them that Justice O’Connor was sorry. No, she’s not, I would reply, anticipating the heartbroken expressions my words always evoked. It seemed to me that this was a woman who looked forward, not back, and who never wasted energy on regret. So now it turns out that the retired justice, just past her 83rd birthday, does have second thoughts about Bush v. Gore and, more to the point, is willing to express them.
She told the editorial board of The Chicago Tribune last week that she thinks the court made a mistake by intervening in the disputed Florida election in the first place. “Maybe the court should have said, ‘We’re not going to take it, goodbye,’ ” she said, as quoted by The Tribune. While Florida’s election officials had “kind of messed it up,” she said, “probably the Supreme Court added to the problem at the end of the day.”
It’s so unusual for a Supreme Court justice to express after-the-fact doubts – let alone Sandra Day O’Connor, let alone one of the highest-profile decisions of recent years – that it’s worth thinking about what she said and putting her words in context.
People who obviously know Sandra O’Connor better than I do say that her comments reflect a view she came to some time ago. “This is more of a piece than not,” was the reaction of Joan Biskupic, whose insightful book, “Sandra Day O’Connor: How the First Woman on the Supreme Court Became Its Most Influential Justice,” appeared shortly after the justice’s retirement in 2005. Justice O’Connor “has long been subtly distancing herself from Bush v. Gore,” her biographer told me, adding: “She plainly does not want Bush v. Gore to define her legacy.”
Full Article: Who’s Sorry Now – NYTimes.com.