Old No. 3 Goes Home

Presidents sometimes get better Supreme Court Justices than they deserve. After two mediocre nominees were rejected by the Senate in 1969-70, Richard Nixon finally chose Harry Blackmun, a prim Midwestern Republican the President knew could be confirmed and one he hoped would be a predictable lapdog to Chief Justice Warren Burger. Burger had been Blackmun's grade-school classmate in St. Paul, Minnesota, and had recommended him for the job.

Nixon was right on the first count -- the only criticism of Blackmun at his confirmation hearings was that the Eighth Circuit judge worked too hard -- but wrong on the second. By...

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