Nation: The Man in the Middle

When Richard Nixon nominated Lewis Franklin Powell Jr. to the Supreme Court in 1971, on his mind must have been something like General Pickett's exhortation to his troops before their ill-fated charge at Gettysburg:

"Don't forget today that you are from Old Virginia." Powell's background as a First-Family-of-Virginia gentleman—his ancestors helped to settle Jamestown in 1607—seemed to match Nixon's desire to shift the court to a more conservative, strict-constructionist stance.

But once on the bench, Powell turned out to be far more flexible than Nixon had expected, and in fact has become one of...

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