Talking Points Memo has exposed that conservative activist Curt Levey, who has been quoted in dozens of news articles this year, suggested during a Republican National Committee conference call that he might not tell the truth about President Obama's Supreme Court nominee. The media should stop quoting Levey about the nomination.
Levey suggested he might not tell the truth about Supreme Court nominee
Levey suggested he might not tell the truth about Obama's Supreme Court nominee. Talking Points Memo's Brian Beutler reported that in an April 22 RNC conference call, "Levey acknowledged that a filibuster likely won't last -- that Obama's nominee, now known to be Solicitor General Elena Kagan, will almost certainly be confirmed. But he hammered home the point to Republicans that there's value in mischaracterizing any nominee, and dragging the fight out as long as possible, whether or not Obama's choice is particularly liberal." In audio from the call posted on TPM, Levey stated:
LEVEY: We wouldn't have a lot to object to if it [the nominee] was [Interior Secretary Ken] Salazar. He's quite moderate as Democrats come. We're not necessarily going to say that if he's nominated, but I think that's the truth.
Levy also stated:
LEVEY: Even if it's a nominee that we can't seriously stop, we can accomplish several things, and so a hard fight is worthwhile. Certainly it can be to the political advantage of Republicans. I think even most liberals that follow this issue will concede that the judges issue works in the GOP's favor, most importantly, in the swing states. Karl Rove has a great quote about how it helped Republicans in about five senatorial races in 2002 -- the judges issue that is. At very least you can force, you know, Democratic senators in the red and purple states to choose -- to have to choose between the values of their constituents, their relatively conservative constituents, and a Supreme Court nominee who likely is going to have values more in common with Hollywood. There's everything to be gained from making the Supreme Court vacancy a campaign issue for 2010.
For those people who do want to support the nominee, and do want to get points for bipartisanship or for supporting the first Hispanic or first gay nominee or whatever it might turn out to be, you'll get just as much credit if, you know, you support the nominee in August, as if you support them now. And I urge everyone not to say that the confirmation of the nominee is inevitable, even if we think it is.
Levey said GOP should use Supreme Court fight to "distract Obama from other items on his agenda." On the conference call, as part of his explanation of why Republicans should challenge the nominee, Levey stated: "There's broader goals such as just distracting Obama from other items on his agenda. The tougher the fight, the less capital and time and resources and floor time in the Senate there is to spend on immigration and climate change, etc."
Media have relied on Levey to comment on judicial nominees
Major papers turn to Levey to comment on judicial nominees. Media Matters has documented major newspapers, news services, and other media outlets, including the Associated Press, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, quoting Levey in articles about judicial nominations since January. Below are the results retrieved from Nexis on May 10:
- National Journal: " 'I see the tea party folks as being the analogs of the Second Amendment folks last summer,' Levey said. 'Tea party groups disagree about a lot of things, but the one thing they seem to all share is the idea that the federal government has grown beyond its constitutional limit. There is only one institution that can fix that, and that is the Supreme Court. So, do they care about judges? I don't know. Should they care about judges? Yes. [Engaging the tea party activists] is one of my goals for the summer.' " [National Journal, 5/8/10]
- New York Times: "Conservatives are readying their attacks. Curt Levey, the executive director of the Committee for Justice, an advocacy group in Washington, said he saw 'vulnerabilities' on cases involving abortion, immigration, criminal law and more; he cited a Thomas opinion that allowed a school to discipline a Christian high school student for wearing a homemade T-shirt that read 'Homosexuality Is Shameful Romans 1:27.' 'The language in the case seemed to me very hostile to people who genuinely have a religious objection to homosexuality,' Mr. Levey said." [New York Times, 5/6/10]
- National Journal: "But Curt Levey, executive director of the conservative Committee for Justice, is not about to forget that history. He was quick to note that Democrats had engaged in similar tactics and prevented votes on a half-dozen or so Bush nominees to the Appellate bench who had majority support. And when he was a senator, Obama supported a filibuster of Alito's nomination -- a move that Levey said makes it 'pretty hard to say it's wrong when Republicans do it but right when Obama does it.' " [National Journal, 5/1/10]
- United Press International: "Wood is widely praised for standing up to conservative judges on the issue, while remaining friends with the same judges. But that is unlikely to endear her to conservative critics, or Republican senators. The abortion issue, especially her opposition to bans on late-term abortions -- something that Stevens also opposed -- is 'her Achilles' heel,' Curt Levey, executive director of the Committee for Justice, told The Washington Post. The committee opposes Wood's appellate rulings on abortion. 'It tells you that she's probably not going to be selected, because Obama doesn't have the stomach for this to be about an abortion debate.' " [United Press International, 4/25/10]
- Washington Post: "If President Obama nominates US Circuit Judge Diane P. Wood to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, social conservatives say they intend to make her rulings on abortion rights the primary point of contention. 'That's her Achilles' heel,' said Curt Levey, executive director of the Committee for Justice, which opposes Wood's rulings on abortion. 'It tells you that she's probably not going to be selected, because Obama doesn't have the stomach for this to be about an abortion debate.' Obama's intentions remain unclear, but Levey's comments encapsulate a message that Wood's foes are sending as the White House ponders a list of possible candidates. For Wood, who turns 60 in July, this vacancy could be her last shot at the court." [Washington Post, 4/19/20]
- New York Times: "Curt Levey of the conservative Committee for Justice, said her handling of the recruiting matter would generate criticism on both national security and gay rights grounds.'' [New York Times, 4/17/10]
- Boston Globe: "Curt Levey, executive director of the conservative Committee for Justice and a Harvard Law graduate, said Kagan 'doesn't seem to hate conservatives the way that some liberals do.' But what might prove more troublesome, he said, is that activists across the political spectrum are not sure where she stands." [Boston Globe, 4/15/10]
- Slate: "Curt Levey endorsed Garland in an interview with Talking Points Memo, saying of Obama '[I]f he nominates someone like Garland, there won't be a lot to complain about.' " [Slate, 4/15/10]
- Gannett: "But that is unlikely to deter Obama if he decides he wants to nominate Napolitano, said Curt Levey, executive director of The Committee for Justice, a conservative judicial watchdog group. 'The president is not going to nominate the kind of far-left people that these liberal groups want,' Levey said. 'That's just not the real world. He's going to nominate someone he thinks he can get confirmed.' " [Gannett, 4/14/10]
- Associated Press: "Curt Levey of the conservative Committee for Justice said he has been in contact with some tea party leaders trying to explain to them how an Obama judicial nomination affects their cause. 'Are we going to have big or small government? Should the Supreme Court have unlimited power?' he said. And the health care overhaul? 'That's going to end up in front of the Supreme Court, and if you care whether that bill survives or not, you better care about the Supreme Court,' Levey said." [Associated Press, 4/13/10]
- USA Today: "Curt Levey, executive director of the conservative Committee for Justice, said conservative advocates are waiting to see whom Obama names before lobbying senators. For now, he said, 'I line them up in terms of Wood (prompting) the biggest fight. ... Kagan is more of an unknown ... and Garland would be hard to fight at all.' " [USA Today, 4/12/10]
- New York Times: " 'If it's someone like Merrick Garland, I don't think there's going to be a big fight,' said Curt Levey of the Committee for Justice, a conservative advocacy group. But Mr. Levey said a more liberal nominee, like Judge Wood, would 'be a field day for the conservative groups.' '' [New York Times, 4/10/10]
- Newsday: "Some conservatives prefer Garland -- Curt Levey of the Committee for Justice called him 'a safe pick' that doesn't appear to be agenda-driven." [Newsday, 4/10/10]
- Politico: "Conservative groups have been meeting for weeks plotting strategies for opposing the prospective nominees whose names are circulating on short lists in Washington, according to Levey. 'If they oppose the nominee, then you have used the election to impact the confirmation process," said Levey. 'And if they support the nominee, then you're basically using the confirmation fight to impact their election chances. ' " [Politico, 4/10/10]
- Boston Globe: "Consideration of [Goodwin] Liu's appointment to the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is a warmup for the debate over a Supreme Court replacement if Justice John Paul Stevens decides to retire this year, said Curt Levey, executive director of the Committee for Justice in Washington and a critic of Liu's confirmation. Liu, 39, is a possible Obama choice for the high court in future years, and he is arguably the most liberal and potentially controversial of Obama's judicial nominees so far, Levey said. 'It's a valuable test run for the confirmation this summer,' Levey said." [Boston Globe, 4/9/10]
- Congressional Quarterly Today: "But Curt Levey, executive director of the Committee for Justice, a conservative activist group, said that although it should be easier for his group to raise money this time than it was last year, how much it spends will depend on who is selected. 'We're not just going to throw money away,' he said. 'If it's somebody who really is a moderate and we know that's the best we're going to do, I don't see the point of fighting just to fight.' " [Congressional Quarterly, 4/9/10]
- Politico: " 'There are certainly conservative groups that would oppose him [Garland], but there are also conservative groups that would very likely sit on their hands, because he is about the best that we can do,' said Curt Levey of the conservative Committee for Justice. 'He is liberal, but overall -- unlike a lot of the other people you hear mentioned -- he doesn't seem agenda driven.' " [Politico, 4/9/10]
- McClatchy Newspapers: " 'He's [Liu] by far the most controversial nominee that Obama has named and he's clearly being groomed for the Supreme Court, so there's every reason to give him a full dose of scrutiny,' said Curt Levey, executive director of the conservative Committee for Justice. 'Look, he was picked because he's a darling of the left, and that's exactly the reason conservatives are up in arms about him.' Levey predicted that the confirmation fight over Liu will be the biggest battle involving a lower-court judge this year. He said he wouldn't be surprised if it's a preview of an even bigger battle down the road. He noted, however, that Liu has 'zero courtroom experience' and shouldn't be rushed into a judgeship. 'Normally, you wouldn't rush someone along -- unless there was a reason,' Levey said. 'And the reason is they're clearly grooming him for the Supreme Court while Obama is still in office. ... Obama has already signaled that he likes to make demographically sexy picks. I think he'd love to appoint the first Asian.'" [McClatchy Newspapers, 4/8/10]
- Politico: " 'I don't think Obama was ever anxious to have the debate be about guns, gay marriage, and partial-birth abortion, and is even less so now,' said Curt Levey of the Committee for Justice, which opposed Sotomayor and lobbied for many of President George W. Bush's judicial nominees. Obama 'was still walking on water last summer. ...,' Levey said. 'Whatever you think of the health care outcome, he's certainly not walking on water any more. Republicans who were a bit leery of standing up to him are, if anything, a bit overcharged in the other direction at this point.' " [Politico, 4/2/10]
- New York Times: '' 'If it were a Sunstein or a Koh, you would have all-out war,' said Curt Levey, executive director of the Committee for Justice, a conservative advocacy group." [New York Times, 3/26/10]
- Washington Post: " 'I think people are viewing this as a test for the Supreme Court nomination that will be coming up' if Justice John Paul Stevens steps down at the end of this term, said Curt Levey, executive director of the conservative Committee for Justice." [Washington Post, 3/22/10]
- Associated Press: "Only six of Obama's 15 appeals court nominees have been confirmed even though the president's choices have seemed designed to avoid 'high-profile fights,' in the words of Curt Levey of the conservative Committee for Justice." [Associated Press, 3/14/10]
- San Francisco Chronicle: "Of all of Obama's judicial nominees, Liu is 'by far the biggest target,' said Curt Levey, executive director of the conservative Committee for Justice. Democrats, he asserted, 'are obviously grooming him for the Supreme Court.' " [San Francisco Chronicle, 3/14/10]
- Washington Post: "Curt Levey, the executive director of the conservative Committee for Justice, called Liu one of the leading 'radical legal theorists out there.' 'There's a lot of things in there that really get under the skin of people like me who believe in strict construction,' Levey said of Liu's book. 'Basically all the things that drive conservatives crazy.' " [Washington Post, 2/25/10]