National conservative leader and former Ohio Secretary of State and U.N. Ambassador Ken Blackwell expressed grave doubts Sunday about Judge Raymond Kethledge’s nomination to the Supreme Court, pushing back on the “Gorsuch 2.0” label advocated by Kethledge supporters by using “Souter 2.0.”
On Twitter, Blackwell, who was a senior member of the Trump transition team, wrote that Kethledge “worried” him. “We can’t afford Souter 2.0,” he wrote, referring to George H.W. Bush nominee Justice David Souter, who, despite the endorsement of many solid conservatives, became an anchor of the left-wing of the Supreme Court for almost 20 years:
Kethledge for #SCOTUS worries me. Reminds me too much of Souter. Been on bench for a decade, very few big cases – we can't afford Souter 2.0.
— J. Kenneth Blackwell (@kenblackwell) July 8, 2018
The term was a play on “Gorsuch 2.0,” a moniker coined for Kethledge by conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt this week. Hewitt has links to “Never Trump” sentiment and relied on some Never Trumpers in the conservative legal world to bolster the case for Kethledge. The term, which implies a certain inevitability of a Kethledge pick, was widely picked up by the press. The Hill, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and others published pieces referring to “Gorsuch 2.0.”
Blackwell, in his tweet, referred to Kethledge’s lack of “big cases” in his time on the federal bench.
Another conservative lawyer who discussed the matter with Breitbart News similarly claimed that Kethledge’s supporters are trying to sell him based on the fact that, after a decade on the court, he had never issued a ruling that incensed the left. “You know the last time time we put someone on with that pitch? It was David Souter,” the expert said.
The infamous Souter pick did, in fact, follow from similar arguments to that now reportedly being used by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, that he would avoid obstacles to confirmation with his lack of a controversial record. Souter, who in 1990 was a Justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, came highly recommended by Republican former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu.
As the New York Times’s Jeffrey Rosen wrote on Souter’s retirement in 2009, “When he was nominated for the court by George H. W. Bush in 1990, Judge Souter was sold as a confirmable stealth candidate who would prove to be a reliable conservative; instead, he soon emerged as an unapologetic liberal.”
The conservative lawyers with whom Breitbart News spoke expressed their doubts that Kethledge could be nearly as antithetical to their viewpoints as a “Souter 2.0,” preferring to compare him to the justice he would perspective replace, Anthony Kennedy. “But,” one stressed, “if he turns out to be a Anthony Kennedy 2.0, that’s a loss,” given that President Trump promises justices like Antonin Scalia and Neil Gorsuch.
The potential for such a “loss” took a major blow Sunday as the New York Times reported that President Trump had “all but ruled out” a Kethledge pick.