WASHINGTON—Seventy national conservative leaders have issued a “Memo to the Movement” on the Supreme Court, calling on conservatives to focus Republican presidential candidates on what sort of justices they would appoint. These leaders have one simple demand: “No more surprises.”
The Conservative Action Project (CAP) was founded by leading national conservatives not long after President Barack Obama began his presidency. Its first chairman was former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese, regarded by many as the godfather of constitutional conservatism. CAP’s Memos to the Movement are required reading in many corners throughout the nation’s capital, reflecting a consensus by the most respected names in conservatism on vital issues facing the nation.
Supreme Court nominations have now reached that level. “The next President is likely to appoint as many as three justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, establishing a new majority and shaping the judicial branch for a generation,” the Memo begins. “Those justices will serve for many years after the next President leaves office and their votes will impact every facet of American life.”
The Memo was drafted by three of America’s most respected authorities on the Court. The first is General Meese, whose impact on judicial nominations exceeds that of most U.S. presidents, as Ronald Reagan’s point-man for multiple Supreme Court appointments and dozens of federal appellate judgeships, and who, for a quarter-century since Reagan left office, has helped lead America’s flagship centers of conservative thought. Second is Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society for Law & Public Policy, the conservative counterweight to the liberal majority in law and legal academia. And the third is Secretary Ken Blackwell, who after years of elected office and presidential appointments, is on the board of numerous organizations from the National Rifle Association to the policy board of the American Civil Rights Union and is a visiting law professor. (Full disclosure: I coauthored a piece for CNN with Secretary Blackwell immediately before CNN’s Republican presidential debate explaining the importance of the Court and calling upon CNN debate moderators to press the candidates about this topic. They did so.)
The Memo calls on all Republican presidential candidates to pledge to nominate only lawyers with proven judicial records of upholding the Constitution. This point includes: “No matter their credentials, avoid nominees with thin paper trails who have failed to publicly demonstrate their unwavering commitment to limited, constitutional government.”
Secretary Blackwell spoke exclusively to Breitbart News, offering one caveat. “The Memo says a proven ‘judicial record,’ but we did not intend to suggest that only judges should be nominated to the Supreme Court,” Blackwell began. “Constitutional conservatives like Sen. Ted Cruz or Sen. Mike Lee would be spectacular, 100 percent-reliable Supreme Court justices (unless Cruz becomes president, in which case he would be appointing those justices instead!). Our point is that any nominee must have a rock-solid public record of adhering to the original meaning of the Constitution, including on issues where public polling does not support the constitutional standard.”
The second point is equally vital for the conservative agenda: “Commit to spending the energy and political capital necessary to win a confirmation battle.” Democrats will seek to derail any worthwhile GOP nominee. A Republican president must embrace that reality, and resolve that since it’s going to be a bare-knuckled fight anyway, he might as well fight to confirm the best possible nominees.
Whether economic, social, or national security, the Supreme Court is deciding all manner of issues that shape the life of the nation. From Obamacare and EPA rules, to marriage and abortion, to presidential wartime powers and immigration, 5-4 Supreme Court votes can change everything. These leaders are sounding a clarion call to declare that the United States needs reliable constitutional conservatives on the Supreme Court, not more judicial surprises.
Ken Klukowski is legal editor for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.