John McCain and Barack Obama, the two leading presidential candidates, have set out sharply contrasting views on the role of the Supreme Court and the kind of justices they would appoint, reports the Los Angeles Times. McCain has echoed the views of conservatives who say “judicial activism” is the central problem facing the judiciary. He called it the “common and systematic abuse…by an elite group…we entrust with judicial power.” Obama said he was most concerned about a conservative court that tilted to the side of “the powerful against the powerless,” and to corporations and the government against individuals. “What’s truly elitist is to appoint judges who will protect the powerful and leave ordinary Americans to fend for themselves,” he said in response to McCain.
Obama has also praised current Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David H. Souter. “I want people on the bench who have enough empathy, enough feeling, for what ordinary people are going through,” Obama said. It is not just a theoretical policy debate. Whoever is elected in November will probably have the chance to appoint at least one justice in the next presidential term. The court’s two most liberal justices are its oldest: John Paul Stevens turned 88 last month, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 75.