Those Cursed Litmus Tests

For years now, the Right has hewed to the same cheap rhetorical and intellectually dishonest argument that there is some sort of substantive difference between a president having a so-called “litmus test” for judicial nominees versus, say, a pledge merely to nominate “strict constructionists.”   

Whereas having a “litmus test” for judges tends to mean that the president will only nominate individuals who will rule in a certain way on specific issues or cases, usually Roe vs. Wade, pledging to nominate “strict constructionists” or some other euphemism merely means pledging only to nominate individuals who hold a specific legal philosophy – one that just so happens to be fundamentally hostile to, and seeks to overturn, Roe vs. Wade.   

According to the Right, the latter is good while the former is bad – which is how we end up with this sort of thing:

Litmus tests for judges might be on the horizon if Democratic presidential hopefuls like Senator Barak Obama (D-Illinois) are elected to office — so says the nation’s largest women’s pro-life activism group.

Obama recently told abortion advocates at a Planned Parenthood conference that the ban on partial-birth abortion was a concerted effort to roll back legalized abortion. He also informed the gathering that if elected, he would only nominate judges who “have empathy to recognize what it’s like to be a young pregnant teenager.” But Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, warns that what Obama and others are proposing is frightening — a litmus test for judicial nominees.

“It is a bit shocking of an admission that a presidential candidate would say that they would have an abortion litmus test for Supreme Court nominees,” says Wright; “that only if someone believes in abortion-on-demand could they be able to get an appointment onto the Supreme Court.”

Since “litmus tests” are so bad, presumably CWA is equally concerned about Sam Brownback’s blatant one:

Sen. Sam Brownback was one of three Republican presidential candidates to address the National Right to Life convention Friday at a forum for those seeking the GOP nomination. He said that, as president, he would like to nominate the next Supreme Court justice who could provide the fifth vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.

“We’re one vote shy on the Supreme Court. I want to be the president to appoint that justice,“ the GOP contender said.

Strangely, CWA hasn’t voiced much concern about Brownback’s “shocking of an admission that a presidential candidate would say that they would have an abortion litmus test for Supreme Court nominees.” 

One also wonders if CWA will soon be backing Rudy Giuliani, since he has explicitly stated that he would have no abortion litmus test for his judicial nominees and is busy running around the country telling everyone who will listen merely that he will “will nominate strict constructionist judges with respect for the rule of law and a proven fidelity to the Constitution – judges in the mold of Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito and Chief Justice Roberts.”

Or maybe not:

The decision about whether to support Giuliani will be difficult for conservative evangelicals, said Janice Shaw Crouse, senior fellow of Concerned Women for America’s Beverly LaHaye Institute.

“When evangelicals have to weigh in the balance his obvious leadership skills as opposed to his stance on abortion,” she said, “and when they have to weigh his public confidence alongside his personal divorces—this will be the real litmus test.”