Is Sandra Day O'Connor a moderate, or a conservative? More to the point - should Democrats be referring to her as a moderate, or as a conservative? Kevin Drum thinks that labeling O'Connor a moderate moves the goalposts too far to the right:
... statements like these [Ed.-i.e., those that refer to as a moderate] make it sound like she's in the dead center of constitutional jurisprudence. She's not. She's a conservative, and Democrats should make that clear.
Generally speaking I don't have a big problem with O'Connor's tenure on the court, but when even Democrats start calling her a moderate, it moves the goalposts too far. They should be referring to her as a "moderate conservative," a "mainstream conservative," or a "thoughtful conservative." Anything like that is fine. But whatever they call her, they should make it clear that she's a conservative.
After all, if she's really a moderate, then surely a conservative president has the right to appoint someone just a little more conservative than her, right?
Greg Saunders disagrees:
If everyone has the word "conservative" drilled into their heads, the idea of replacing O'Connor with an arch-conservative won't seem nearly as unpleasant as it should. For the people who pick up on the rhetoric but don't really pay attention to things, replacing an O'Connor style conservative with a George W. Bush style conservative would be a move towards the status quo, rather than the dramatic shift to the right we all know it would be. The best defense Democrats have against a truly repellent Supreme Court nominee is to remind the American people that the Bush Administration wants to replace a moderate justice with a conservative one.
I tend to agree with Saunders.