Professor Althouse, are you as a woman disappointed that President Bush did not nominate a woman to replace Justice O'Connor?It occurs to me that Bush has done a number of things during his presidency that show a specific choice to do things differently from his father. One thing the elder Bush did is to fill a Supreme Court seat occupied by a "first" as if that first person had transformed that seat into a designated seat.
Ann Althouse: I want to see more women on the Court. But I don't mind that Bush avoided creating a "woman's seat" where O'Connor sat. I think it's good that Bush is giving the impression of picking the best person for the job. Roberts probably is stronger than the female candidates who came close. Clearly, Bush considered women, which is good.
George H.W. Bush replaced the first black Justice, Thurgood Marshall, with the second black Justice, Clarence Thomas. He nevertheless insisted that he'd picked "the best person for the job" -- something few people believed. (And I'm not trying to disrespect Thomas. I think he's a fine Justice.) The elder Bush not only created a designated seat and resorted to making hard-to-believe assertions about his action, he also undermined his ability to oppose affirmative action, because the Thomas pick was so widely perceived as affirmative action.
The younger Bush has now chosen not to replace the first woman Justice with another woman. So unlike his father, he is not creating a designated seat on the Court. And in picking Roberts, he actually picked someone about whom it can be said convincingly: He was the best person for the job. And he has not limited what he can plausibly say about affirmative action.
I have no knowledge of whether George W. Bush actually thought through the Supreme Court pick using his father's experience as a negative example. (I don't even know whether he thought of the war in Iraq that way.) I'm just pointing out the pattern.