Sandra Day O'Connor's second thoughts on the 2000 Bush v. Gore decision

Sandra Day O'Connor's second thoughts on the 2000 Bush v. Gore decision
By Harold Maass | The Week 

The retired justice acknowledges that the ruling that put Bush in the White House hurt the court's reputation

Seven years after retiring from the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O'Connor is second-guessing what she says was the most controversial ruling of her 25 years on the high court — Bush v. Gore, which decided the 2000 presidential election. O'Connor — appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1981 — was the swing vote who gave conservatives a 5-4 majority, and put George W. Bush in the White House. She says now that the court only "stirred up the public" and "gave the court a less-than-perfect reputation" by stepping in to end Florida's manual recount, giving the state's electoral votes — and the presidency — to Bush. "[The court] took the case and decided it at a time when it was still a big election issue," O'Connor told the Chicago Tribune editorial board recently. "Maybe the court should have said, 'We're not going to take it, goodbye.'"

The retired justice's remarks triggered a barrage of commentary from the left. O'Connor is exactly right to say the Supreme Court should have butted out, says Taylor Marsh, reflecting some of those sentiments at her blog. "The U.S. Constitution is set up for handling these things, which would likely have meant a Bush presidency anyway." Of course, at the time O'Connor and her fellow conservatives weren't willing to gamble on "an outcome with roots in a founding document," because there was a chance it would have gone to Al Gore and the Democrats, says Marsh. So they made a political decision and essentially gave Bush the keys to the Oval Office. O'Connor now realizes "she ruined her reputation by siding with the slim majority and will never get it back, but now she'll have her mea culpa on the record," adds Marsh. "She's embarrassed about what she did, which as it should be."


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