Almost (Really) Famous: 9 Former Supreme Court Candidates

Mario Cuomo (seated with Hilary Clinton) declined President Bill Clinton's offer for Supreme Court candidacy.
Mario Cuomo (seated with Hilary Clinton) declined President Bill Clinton's offer for Supreme Court candidacy.
JENNIFER LAW, Getty Images

If she's confirmed, Solicitor General Elena Kagan would become the fourth woman to sit on the Supreme Court. If not, at least she'll earn a spot on a future version of this list—candidates who were almost appointed to the highest court in the land.

1. Dallin H. Oaks

After suffering a debilitating stroke, William O. Douglas reluctantly retired from the Supreme Court in 1975. Douglas, who was in office for 36 years, was determined to outlast Gerald Ford's presidential term after Ford had unsuccessfully attempted to impeach Douglas while serving as House Minority Leader five years earlier. While Ford selected Seventh Circuit judge John Paul Stevens to replace Douglas, he considered several other candidates, including Brigham Young University president Dallin H. Oaks.

Six years later, while serving as a Utah Supreme Court Justice, Oaks was a candidate for the Supreme Court vacancy that Sandra Day O'Connor eventually filled. In 1984, Oaks retired from the Utah Supreme Court to pursue a higher calling and was ordained a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Today, Oaks is the fifth most senior apostle among the ranks of the LDS church.

2. Robert H. Bork

Ronald Reagan elevated William Rehnquist to Chief Justice following Warren Burger's retirement in 1986 and considered two judges—Robert Bork and Antonin Scalia—to fill the Associate Justice vacancy created by Rehnquist's promotion. While Reagan chose the younger Scalia this time, he would nominate Bork to fill the vacancy left by Lewis Powell, who retired one year later. Democrats had threatened to put up a fight if Reagan nominated a conservative to replace the moderate Powell and Bork, a judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, was an easy target. He had close ties to Richard Nixon, having fired Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox at Nixon's request while serving as United States Solicitor General in 1973. Shortly after Bork was nominated, Sen. Ted Kennedy condemned him during a nationally televised speech. "Bork's rigid ideology will tip the scales of justice against the kind of country America is and ought to be," Kennedy said. While many Democrats would admit that Kennedy's criticism of Bork was over the top, the damage had been done. The Senate rejected Bork's confirmation, 58-42.

After Bork was rejected, Reagan planned to nominate Douglas Ginsburg, but Ginsburg withdrew his name from consideration after it was revealed that he had smoked marijuana with his students while he was a professor at Harvard Law School. Reagan ultimately chose Ninth Circuit judge Anthony Kennedy.

3. Edith H. Jones

After a stroke led William Brennan to announce his retirement in 1990, George H.W. Bush moved quickly to nominate a replacement. John Sununu, the White House chief of staff, helped Bush narrow a list of about a dozen candidates down to two: First Circuit judge David Souter and Fifth Circuit judge Edith H. Jones. Less than a week after the news broke that Brennan was stepping down, Bush nominated Souter. "Reading between the lines, and that's all it is, maybe we're talking about a sequence here," Sununu said of Jones after the decision was announced. "Maybe she is the choice the next time we have a vacancy on the Court. There are no sure things, and times and conditions can change, but the President was impressed." Jones, who was later considered for a Supreme Court vacancy by George W. Bush, is currently the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

4. Emilio M. Garza

Like William O. Douglas, liberal Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American to serve on the Supreme Court, had no plans of leaving the bench while a conservative was in office. But Marshall was becoming increasingly ill and announced his retirement in 1991, two years before he died of a heart failure, while George H.W. Bush was in the White House. A number of candidates were reportedly considered for the vacancy, including Solicitor General Kenneth Starr, Clarence Thomas, and Garza, who was a recently appointed Fifth Circuit judge. Due to concerns over Garza's inexperience—he had only been on the Fifth Circuit for a few weeks—and a desire to replace Marshall with a black conservative, Bush chose Thomas.

5. Mario Cuomo

Byron White, who was an All-American running back at Colorado before attending Yale and being appointed to the Supreme Court in 1962, retired from office in 1993. Bill Clinton wanted to offer the position to New York Governor Mario Cuomo, the only person he mentioned as a potential replacement during his 1992 campaign. While he initially seemed open to the idea, Cuomo later sent a letter to Clinton indicating that he was not interested in the position. "I do not know whether you might indeed have nominated me, but because there has been public speculation concerning the possibility, I think I owe it to you to make clear now that I do not wish to be considered," Cuomo wrote. After Cuomo declined, Clinton considered several other candidates, including Sen. George J. Mitchell and Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, before ultimately nominating Columbia law professor and judge for the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

6. Richard Arnold

Harry Blackmun announced his retirement in 1994 and Clinton was prepared to offer the nomination to Mitchell, who had turned down the offer the previous year to remain in the Senate. Clinton also considered Eighth Circuit judge Richard S. Arnold, a fellow Arkansas native, but he had reservations about Arnold's health. Arnold had been diagnosed with low-grade non-Hodgkin's lymphoma nearly 20 years earlier. Clinton eventually chose First Circuit judge Stephen Breyer, who had interviewed with Clinton for the vacancy left by White in 1993, but failed to impress, perhaps as a result of the pain he was in after being hit by a car while biking a few days earlier. Arnold died from an infection related to his treatment in 2004.

7. Edith Brown Clement

When Sandra Day O'Connor announced her plans to retire in 2005, it left George W. Bush with his first opportunity after more than four years in office to nominate a member of the Supreme Court. First Lady Laura Bush suggested that a woman should replace O'Connor and two female judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals—Edith Brown Clement and Edith Jones (see #3)—were reportedly among the leading candidates. Clement soon emerged as the rumored choice, but after ABC News published a story on its website that Clement was not Bush's pick, the attention turned to the candidate who had become known as the "Other Edith." Bush, of course, selected John G. Roberts, a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, instead. Clement continues to serve as a Fifth Circuit judge.

8. Harriet Miers

When Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist died in September 2005, Roberts's confirmation was still pending. Bush withdrew and then resubmitted Roberts's nomination, this time for Chief Justice, leaving O'Connor's seat vacant once again. Bush nominated a woman, his close friend Harriet Miers, but the choice sparked unprecedented criticism from both parties. Robert Bork called the nomination "a disaster on every level." Miers, the White House Counsel who had previously served as Bush's private attorney, lacked judicial experience and her position on key issues was largely unknown. Facing heated criticism, Bush eventually accepted Miers's request to withdraw her nomination and chose Third Circuit judge Samuel Alito as O'Connor's replacement.

9. Janet Napolitano

The short list of Barack Obama's candidates to replace David Souter when Souter announced his plans to retire at the end of the Supreme Court's term in 2009 included Seventh Circuit judge Pamela Wood, future nominee Kagan, and the eventual nominee, Second Circuit judge Sonia Sotomayor. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was also among the candidates who met with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden before a decision was made. Had Napolitano been nominated and confirmed, she would have served alongside Clarence Thomas. In 1991, Napolitano represented Anita Hill, who had accused Thomas of sexual harassment, during the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on the matter.

8 Facts About Niccolò Machiavelli

iStock/dcerbino
iStock/dcerbino

Niccolò Machiavelli is arguably the most influential political thinker from the Italian Renaissance. Following the publication of his political theory masterwork The Prince in 1932, his name became synonymous with ruthless political machinations. But was this Florentine philosopher really that bad?

1. HE HAD A FRONT-ROW SEAT TO RENAISSANCE POWER STRUGGLES.

Machiavelli was born in 1469 in the independent Republic of Florence. Long before he became known as the first modern political theorist (not to mention an inspiration for House of Cards), Machiavelli worked as a diplomat in the service of the Florentine government. In 1498, at only 29 years old, he was appointed as the head of the Second Chancery, which put him in control of the city's foreign relations. His number-one concern was the potential return of the Medici family—the most infamous power brokers in Renaissance Italy—who had been ousted from Florence in 1494. Machiavelli oversaw the recruitment and training of an official militia to keep them at bay, but his army was no match for the Medici, who were supported by Rome's papal militia. When the Medici retook Florence in 1512, their first order of business was to fire—and, just for the heck of it, torture—Machiavelli.

2. HE WROTE THE PRINCE TO REGAIN LOST STATUS.

As a diplomat and a scholar in an age of constant warfare, Machiavelli observed and absorbed the rules of the political game. After he lost his job as a diplomat (and even served a short time in jail), he turned to scholarship, poring over the Latin texts of ancient Roman political philosophers for inspiration. By the end of 1513, he had completed the first version of what would become his masterwork: The Prince, a handbook for the power-hungry. The book offered tips to rising politicians for seizing power, and advice to incumbent princes for keeping it.

Ironically, Machiavelli dedicated the book to the Medici, hoping it would bring him back into their good graces. It remains unclear whether it was ever read by its intended audience, and Machiavelli never got to see The Prince go viral. It was published in 1532, five years after its author's death.

3. HE COMPARED THE NEED FOR LOVE TO THE VALUE OF FEAR.

One of The Prince’s primary lessons was that leaders must always try to strike a balance between seeking the love of their subordinates and inspiring fear. If a leader is too soft or kind, the people may become unruly; too cruel, and they might rebel. Machiavelli had a clear preference. "Since love and fear can hardly exist together,” he wrote, “if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved."

4. THE PRINCE’S RUTHLESSNESS MADE IT NOTORIOUS.

Machiavelli’s political thesis became notorious because it focused almost entirely on helping rulers get what they want at whatever cost—in other words, the end always justified the means. Other political thinkers, while acknowledging Machiavelli’s brilliance, were appalled by his mercenary take on statesmanship. In the 18th century, French essayist Denis Diderot described Machiavelli's work as "abhorrent" and summed up The Prince as "the art of tyranny." Friedrich Schiller, a proponent of liberal democracy, referred to The Prince as an unwitting satire of the kind of monarchical rule it supposedly espouses (“a terrible satire against princes”). David Hume, the Scottish polymath and inveterate skeptic, called Machiavelli "a great genius" whose reasoning is "extremely defective.” Wrote Hume, "There scarcely is any maxim in his Prince which subsequent experience has not entirely refuted.”

But 20th-century British philosopher Bertrand Russell disagreed, saying that Machiavelli was merely being honest on a subject that most preferred with a good sugarcoating. “Much of the conventional obloquy that attaches itself to his name, is due to the indignation of hypocrites,” Russell wrote [PDF/a>], “who hate the frank avowal of evil-doing.”

5. SHAKESPEARE CALLED VILLAINS “MACHIAVELS.”

Machiavelli’s notoriety spread so quickly that by the 16th century his name had found its way into the English language as an epithet for crookedness. In Elizabethan theatre, it came to denote a dramatic type: An incorrigible schemer driven by greed and unbridled ambition. In the prologue for The Jew of Malta, playwright Christopher Marlowe introduces his villain as “a sound Machiavill.” Even William Shakespeare used the term as a derogatory shorthand. “Am I politic? Am I subtle? Am I a Machiavel?” one character in The Merry Wives of Windsor asks rhetorically, before adding an indignant, “No!”

6. THE PRINCE WAS BANNED BY THE POPE.

When Machiavelli was out of a job, he did what most Renaissance thinkers did: He found a patron. Pope Clement VII, a Medici who had been elected in 1523, was happy to support the scholar. The pope even commissioned one of Machiavelli’s longest works, the Florentine Histories, which Machiavelli presented in 1526. But after the posthumous publication of The Prince in 1532, the papacy’s attitude toward Machiavelli’s work chilled. When Pope Paul VI established Rome's first Index of Forbidden Books in 1557, he made sure to include The Prince for its promulgation of dishonesty and dirty politics. (Machiavelli’s passion for classical writers and their pagan culture didn’t appeal to Pope Paul, either [PDF].)

7. HE COLLABORATED WITH LEONARDO DA VINCI.

In 1503, when Machiavelli was struggling to fortify Florence against its enemies, he turned to the ultimate Renaissance man, Leonardo da Vinci.

According to a 1939 biography of Leonardo, the two "seem to have become intimate" when they met in Florence. Machiavelli used his power to procure commissions for Leonardo and even appointed him Florence's military engineer between 1502 and 1503. Machiavelli was hoping to harness Leonardo’s ingenuity to capture Pisa, a fledgling city-state which Florentine leaders had been eager to subdue for decades. As expected, Leonardo came up with a revolutionary plan. He contrived a system of dams that would block off one of Pisa’s main waterways, which could have brought Pisa to the brink of a drought and given Machiavelli all the leverage he could have asked for. But the plan failed. The dam system ended up interrupting Florence's own agriculture, and so the government terminated the project. Leonardo left his post after only eight months.

Some scholars believe that the encounter with Leonardo left a deep mark on Machiavelli’s political thinking. They point to Machiavelli’s repeated emphasis on the power of technological innovation to decide a war, a view which they believe Leonardo had inspired. Machiavelli’s writing is rife with idiosyncratic expressions that seem to have almost been lifted from Leonardo's notebooks.

8. HE ACTUALLY BELIEVED IN A JUST GOVERNMENT.

Scholar Erica Benner argues that, despite his reputation, Machiavelli wasn’t amoral. Although The Prince openly encouraged politicians to take and offer bribes, cheat, threaten, and even kill if necessary, Machiavelli knew that even rulers had to obey some sense of justice, Benner wrote in The Guardian. He recognized that the race for power comes with very few scruples, but he also recognized that without respect for justice, society falls into chaos.

11 Inspiring Facts About Eleanor Roosevelt

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

On October 11, 1884, Eleanor Roosevelt was born in New York City. Her lifetime achievements are almost too numerous to list, but these amazing facts should remind you why she’s still celebrated as one of America’s finest first ladies and diplomats.

1. ELEANOR WAS HER MIDDLE NAME.

From a very young age, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt much preferred her middle name and would usually introduce herself by it as she grew older. For the record, Roosevelt wasn’t wild about her childhood nickname either: Her mother, Anna Hall Roosevelt, found the girl comically old-fashioned and often referred to her as "Granny."

2. SHE WAS ORPHANED AT A VERY YOUNG AGE.

Eleanor Roosevelt as a young girl
Getty Images

When Anna Roosevelt passed away in 1892, her husband Elliott, who struggled with alcoholism, was exiled from the family. Following these tragic events, 8-year-old Eleanor was left in the care of her maternal grandmother, Valentine Hall. Unable to shake his demons, Elliott (Teddy Roosevelt’s younger brother) attempted suicide by jumping out of a window in 1894. Despite surviving this fall, he suffered a seizure shortly thereafter and died on August 14, 1894—leaving his children parentless.

3. SHE LOVED FIELD HOCKEY.

What did Roosevelt consider the happiest day of her life? The day she made her private school’s field hockey team.

4. ON HER WEDDING DAY, THEN-PRESIDENT TEDDY ROOSEVELT WALKED HER DOWN THE AISLE.

FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt
Getty Images

“I am as fond of Eleanor as if she were my daughter,” Teddy Roosevelt once wrote of his niece. On March 17, 1905—just a few months into his second term—the Bull Moose had the honor of giving Eleanor away on her wedding day. “Well, Franklin,” the commander-in-chief later joked to her new spouse, and his cousin, “there’s nothing like keeping the name in the family.”  

5. SHE ORGANIZED SEVERAL WOMEN-ONLY WHITE HOUSE PRESS CONFERENCES.

At the time FDR was first elected president, female journalists had traditionally been excluded from serious media events at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Eleanor helped to somewhat level the playing field by hosting a series of ladies-only press conferences, which pressured papers into hiring more women reporters and helped Eleanor win over female voters on behalf of her husband. 

6. SHE ONCE WENT FLYING WITH AMELIA EARHART.

The courageous aviator inspired Eleanor to apply for her very own piloting license and even took the First Lady out for an airborne spin from D.C. to Baltimore in 1933. Years later, after Earhart unexpectedly vanished, a grief-stricken Roosevelt told the press “I am sure Amelia’s last words were ‘I have no regrets.’”

7. SHE WROTE A SYNDICATED NEWSPAPER COLUMN FOR 27 YEARS.

Eleanor Roosevelt gives a speech
Getty Images

From 1935 to 1962, Eleanor composed six weekly articles about her political views and personal life. Simply entitled “My Day,” the column featured Roosevelt’s musings on such topics as Prohibition, Pearl Harbor, and Joseph McCarthy’s Communist witch hunt. A disciplined professional, Eleanor missed only a single week’s worth of material, following her husband’s untimely death in 1945.   

8. SHE DEFIED BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA'S SEGREGATION LAWS IN A POWERFUL PROTEST.

In 1938, the Southern Conference for Human Welfare held its inaugural meeting in Alabama’s “Magic City.” Upon her arrival, Roosevelt sat directly beside an African American associate, ignoring the designated whites-only section en route. After being told that Birmingham’s segregationist policies prohibited whites and blacks from sitting together at public functions, the First Lady asked for a ruler.

“Now measure the distance between this chair and that one,” she said after somebody produced one. Upon examining this gap separating the white and black seating areas, the first lady placed her chair directly in its center. There she defiantly sat, in a racial no-man’s land, until the meeting concluded. “They were afraid to arrest her,” one witness claimed.

9. SHE STARRED IN A MARGARINE COMMERCIAL.

In fact, Roosevelt advertised a range of products—from mattresses to hot dogs. Her appearance in the 1959 TV spot above helped establish margarine as one of America’s favorite spreads. This appearance netted the former first lady $35,000, which she used to purchase 6000 care packages for impoverished families.

10. SHE HELPED DRAFT THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS.

Harry S. Truman appointed Roosevelt as a United Nations delegate in 1946. In this role, she became a driving force behind the U.N.’s Declaration of Human Rights, which over 50 member-states eventually worked together to compose.

11. SHE EARNED 35 HONORARY DEGREES.

FDR, meanwhile, only received 31 Among the institutions which bestowed degrees upon the First Lady-turned diplomat were Russell Sage College, the John Marshall College of Law, and Oxford University.

This article originally ran in 2014.

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