Mitt Romney was credited with a political coup last Tuesday when it was announced that Wendy Long has joined his campaign as a senior legal advisor and vice chair of his National Faith and Values Steering Committee. Long is a familiar name to conservatives who follow the courts. She is chief counsel to the Judicial Confirmation Network, an organization of conservative lawyers that has played a critical role in the confirmation battles for appellate and Supreme Court judges including Sam Alito and John Roberts. She was a litigation partner with Kirkland & Ellis LLP and previously a law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and to U.S. Appeals Court Judge Ralph Winter. We talked to her about her decision to back Romney, her thoughts about the future of the judiciary, and why even non-lawyers should care about the courts.
How did she come to select Romney? She candidly acknowledges that she always liked Fred Thompson, in part because his support of causes like Scooter Libby “warmed her heart,” but ultimately concluded that Thompson could “not hold a candle to the Governor on intellect or leadership.” She contends that Romney is “the constitutionalist” in the race, meaning he best understands and supports concepts of federalism and the commitment to originalism in interpreting the Constitution.
Long also explains that leadership “matters tremendously” in selecting a president. For her this includes “the ability to direct the many and far flung team” that a president needs to confirm judges and lead the Justice Department. She cites Romney’s experience in business and running the Olympics and as Governor as proof he can “lead a large organization and then delegate” to competent managers.
What was her experience in seeing another candidate, Thompson, in the confirmation process of John Roberts?
She describes Thompson’s role as “social” and says that Thompson’s role was not to defend or explain Robert’s background or views. She adds that Thompson has a “gregarious personality” and sense of humor which “just made it a pleasant experience” for Roberts in his Senate meetings.
What does she consider the top legal issues for the presidential race? Without hesitation she says that judges are “the number one issue.” She explains that judges are “the most important [issue] because the federal judiciary affects people’s daily lives,” a situation she says that “shouldn’t be but is what we are confronted with” after years of creeping judicial activism. She notes that the next president may appoint “two, three or even four” Supreme Court justices and will dramatically shape the Court. She also lists tort reform as “tremendously important” since Romney, as a businessman, appreciates how litigation has “gummed up the wheels of commerce.”
What would a Hillary Clinton Supreme Court look like? Long says that “a Hillary presidency would cement and even increase the very liberal and, in my view, incorrect excesses of the Warren Court.” Long explains that with the Warren Court judges began indulging in judicial activism — the practice whereby “a court substitutes its will for a legislative body where there is no constitutional reason to do so.” Long says that Clinton would “appoint people she is confident would arrive at policy outcomes” consistent with a “far reaching left agenda.” Long notes that once the Supreme Court rules on a constitutional matter “you can’t undo it by legislation” and slowly we “destroy self-government and put ourselves in the hands of judges of her [Clinton’s] choosing.” She notes that the verb “cemented’ is used intentionally since constitutional doctrine often can’t be “repaired for a century or more.”
How does she think Romney would do in appointing conservative justices? Long argues that Romney “is the only one I’m absolutely sure” will give us more nominees like Justices Alito and Roberts. With these types of judges she believes we will continue the “incremental process” to return power to the people and allow policy decisions to be made democratically. She says this should not be a bad thing for liberals, who will be free to “fight it out” in legislative bodies to achieve their objectives. She notes that if in that context their ideas “don’t go over” then that is the appropriate outcome in a democracy.
Long is an articulate spokesperson both to bolster Romney’s conservative credentials and to take aim at Thompson, the opponent who clearly will pose a threat to his efforts to woo social conservatives. Both Thompson and Giuliani, who also has touted an all star list of conservative legal advisers, will in the months ahead duke it out with Romney to claim the support of legal conservatives — who like Long dread the thought of a Hillary Supreme Court.