The most important issue by far in the coming presidential election is the judiciary. Whichever party prevails will get a rare “two-fer” — winning not just the presidency but the judiciary as well. The federal judiciary is at a tipping point: President Clinton has appointed almost exactly half of all federal judges. Moreover, the U.S. Supreme Court is precariously balanced, with a 5-to-4 majority prevailing in the most divisive cases.

Clinton has not expended significant capital on judicial nomination, and Republicans did temper his picks. But his judges are demonstrably more liberal than those appointed by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush, especially on the Supreme Court. Most analyses have focused too much on the usually dominant majority, consisting of five Reagan/Bush justices. Rarely noticed is that the four-member minority — which includes Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer — is far more cohesively liberal. They are a mere vote away from taking the Court seriously leftward.

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