The political pluses of Judge O'Connor
Washington — The President appears to be a clear political winner in his appointment of Sandra Day O'Connor to the Supreme Court. Political observers here see the appointment of a woman to be one which, on balance, will be welcomed by most women, even those who may question her position on abortion. Their view is that women generally will hail this breakthrough for women in a field that has hitherto been closed to them.
The National Right to Life Committee, the Moral Majority, and other groups opposed to abortion are, indeed, expressing displeasure with the selection of Judge O'Connor. But Mrs. O'Connor is known to be a conservative Republican and she possesses the endorsement of a man who has long been known as "Mr. Conservative," Sen. Barry Goldwater. Additionally, another leading conservative and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Strom Thurmond, says, "I intend to support her unless something comes up."
Judge O'Connor will likely draw strong conservative support, both from members of the Senate who must approve her appointment and from rank-and-file conservatives around the United States.
The President has said that he chose Mrs. O'Connor on the basis of her overall record, and it would seem that the public, including most conservatives, will judge her accordingly, perhaps differing with some of the things she has done but deciding that in total she is an outstanding choice.
The far right is quite upset with Reagan for this appointment. And some of its leaders are talking about leaving Reagan, taking a walk, but, politically, it seems they have no place to go.
At the same time many liberal leaders are expressing their pleasure over Judge O'Connor's appointment, seeing in her record in the Arizona legislature and on the Arizona Court of Appeals evidence that she is an independent thinker and a very able person.
Some liberals are taking some comfort in a vote she cast when she was a member of the Arizona Senate. Once she voted against a football stadium bill that carried a rider prohibiting abortion at the University of Arizona Hospital.
Some liberals like the allegation, coming from anti-abortionists, that Mrs. O'Connor supported the legalization of abortion in Arizona in 1970, before the Supreme Court legalized it for all the states in 1973.
Also, some liberals are heartened by reports that Mrs. O'Connor is opposed to state aid for private schools and that she has been quoted as saying it is "clearly unconstitutional." They conjecture that this is a person who, as a member of the Supreme Court, might find Reagan-sponsored legislation to provide tax credits for parents with children in private schools as similarly unconstitutional.
In sum, the consensus from President watchers here is that Mr. Reagan has picked up political ground where he badly needed it.
They point out that it was among the males that Mr. Reagan was most popular in the fall election. Political analyst Richard Scammon reminded reporters the other morning at breakfast that the Reagan victory was fashioned mainly out of votes from men "who appeared to like his macho image."
Many women, too, did not like Mr. Reagan's opposition to ERA and abortion. And, more recently, Mr. Reagan has been heavily criticized by Republican women for not giving them more jobs in Washington.
Additionally, observers here see this selection as being one that will help Mr. Reagan maintain his momentum in Congress.
They believe that this new evidence of Reagan political acumen will tend to further strengthen his appearance of being a strong leader and thus will likely help him keep the Democrats on the Hill in a defensive, disunited position.
And, finally, the political pundits are underscoring the public acclaim now coming to the President for fulfilling a campaign promise. He had said that he would move quickly to choose a woman on the high court. In so doing, he strengthened the public perception that this is, indeed, a man who is doing as a President what he said he would do during the campaign.
This perception strengthens public trust in Mr. Reagan and, because of this, increases the President's ability to move programs along and, generally, to get his ideas and initiatives accepted by the Am erican people.