Linda Greenhouse is retiringafter almost 30 years covering the Supreme Court for the Times, and is taking questions from readers this week at nytimes.com. One insight:Greenhouse will apparently go into retirement thinking that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an ACLU lawyer and chief litigator for its Women's Rights Project, is a centrist jurist.
Here's how Greenhouse answered a question on how the ideology of Supreme Court justices shift once they're draped in the robes of the highest court in the land, and whether that makes Senate confirmation hearings obsolete:
It's hard to generalize about the confirmation process. Each Supreme Court nomination/confirmation has its own dynamic, depending on which seat is being filled, what the relationship is between the President and the Senate, how the President chooses to use the nomination power, and what issues are most salient in the country at the time. Nominations get in trouble when the President tries to use them to push beyond the boundaries of the existing political consensus. That was the Bork nomination problem. It was also the first Bush administration's problem with the Clarence Thomas nomination - which of course succeeded, unlike the Bork nomination, but succeeded only barely and after a rough fight. By contrast, President Clinton played to the center, not the left, in selecting Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer, nominations that were well received in the country and that were confirmed unanimously or nearly so. So it's really up to the President to decide at the outset how to play it.
Republicans didn't go after Ginsburg or Breyer with anything resembling the viciousness the left employed again Reagan's failednominee Robert Borkor Bush Sr.'s successful one,Clarence Thomas, but Greenhouse missed those details.
The Times has often denied Ginsburg's liberalism from the start, as demonstrated by this headline from June 27, 1993 after her nomination by President Clinton: "Balanced Jurist at Home in the Middle."
In her coverage, Greenhouse sometimes referred to Ginsburg's liberalism, albeit as relatively liberal compared to the rest of a "conservative"-dominated Supreme Court, calling Ginsburg one of the Court's "more liberal members" or "most liberal members" or "increasingly marginalized liberals."