Mr. desmoinesdem is reading Jan Crawford Greenburg’s book Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court. (It was reviewed here at the Volokh conspiracy blog.)
When Justice William Brennan left the court at the beginning of Poppy Bush’s presidency, Kenneth Starr was the early favorite to get the nomination, but Bush’s Attorney General Richard Thornburgh rejected him as “unacceptable” because he was not reliably conservative enough.
So Bush’s chief of staff John Sununu (a former governor of New Hampshire) and New Hampshire Senator Warren Rudman prevailed upon the White House to nominate David Souter instead. Oops!
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley was among the Senate Republicans who were deeply concerned by the answers Souter gave during his confirmation hearings. But according to Greenburg, Republicans
could not abandon a man the White House had assured them was a reliable conservative. Some assumed Souter was simply pandering to Democrats to get through the committee, and they refused to believe he meant what he said.
Souter was the last “stealth conservative” you’ll ever see a Republican president nominate for the Supreme Court. If John McCain gets elected, expect more like Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Samuel Alito.