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'Make My Day'

October 30, 1987

President Reagan went out of his way Wednesday to assure himself of another political confrontation with the U.S. Senate over a nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. His newest nominee, Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg, 41, of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, might not quite fulfill Reagan's threat to appoint someone whom his critics would object to just as much as they did to Robert H. Bork. That remains to be seen, but it is not likely. The manner in which the President made the selection, however, was akin to drawing his six-shooter and telling the Senate, "Go ahead, make my day."

After all, the President had the alternative of the reported favorite, Judge Anthony M. Kennedy of Sacramento, who at 51 is still young for a Supreme Court justice but has a decade of appeals court experience. Kennedy is a solid conservative. His selection would have been widely popular, and probably would have won speedy confirmation.

In the end, the President ignored the pleas of his chief of staff, Howard H. Baker Jr., the former Senate majority leader, and listened to Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III, a law-and-order zealot who is under grand jury investigation, and to Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), who is so reactionary and contrary that he is an embarrassment to his own party.

Then, a defiant President did not just introduce and praise Ginsburg at the White House ceremony, he took time to lecture the two other branches of government on the meaning of the Constitution, how the courts should interpret it, and the need to get tough with criminals. It was a highly political performance for a President who has been so indignant over the political tactics of Bork's opponents.

Judge Ginsburg may well merit confirmation. But the President did not make that process any easier for him on Wednesday, or any less political.

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