THE BLOG

Sandra Day O'Connor & Rodney King

07/01/2005 08:15 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

OK, now that we've had a day of praising Sandra Day O'Connor and recounting what a genius she was, can we get real? She was a disaster for everyody because in trying to please all, she pleased none.

Conservatives loathe O'Connor because she provided the critical swing vote that kept Roe v. Wade alive. But liberals also found her loathesome when she swung the other way on a whole host of issues including the death penalty.

But here's why I think she was particularly bad and why feminists should be troubled by her legacy: Instead of following a set of constitutional or ideological principles, be they right, left or center, she followed that ideology so brilliantly articulated by Rodney King shortly after the L.A. riots: "Can't we all just get along?"

Merely playing the role of chief peacemaker between conservative and liberal camps in the Court only reinforced the age-old notion that women are supposed to play the role of peacemaker among powerful men, instead of leading.

On abortion for instance, instead of articulating a clear doctrine for or against Roe, O'Connor came up with the meaningless phrase "undue burden," which pleased neither side and left the nation puzzled as to what would constitute an undue burden placed in the path of a woman who sought an abortion.

Love them or loathe them, Margaret Thatcher and Hillary Clinton were/are leaders, guided by clear ideologies that transcend the Rodney King Syndrome.

President Bush is obviously going to pick a conservative and there's a chance he'll pick a woman -- either Edith Jones, Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers-Brown or Edith Brown Clements--all strong, tough, opinionated women. And when and if they make it to the bench, O'Connor's empty legacy will be carried forward not by one of them, but by Justice Stephen Breyer who recently managed to, on the same day, both come out for and against the Ten Commandments being posted on federal property.