The nouns about Judge David H. Souter are sparse: Yankee, bachelor, intellectual, Phi Beta Kappa, Rhodes scholar, mountain climber, skinflint.
The adjectives are somewhat more promising: shy, brilliant, thoughtful, considerate, witty, pleasant, measured, courteous.
Hordes of reporters are climbing through the lovely hills of New Hampshire in search of the man.
Here, two questions hover. Who got him the job? And should he be required to tell his views on questions of the day?
The importunate White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu is taking bows for the appointment and signaling to the right wing that they need have no fears.
On the other hand, Sen. Warren B. Rudman (R-N.H.) is saying, "He's my guy. Sununu being chief of staff of the White House helped make it happen, but I spotted Souter 20 years ago and I'm the one who promoted him."
The question of his sponsorship matters. Most senastors assumed that Sununu was the driving force behind the choice, since Souter and Sununu are from New Hampshire and the chief of staff has assumed control of so many aspects of White House activity.
Sununu is controversial on Capitol Hill. It is not just his militant conservatism that raise hackles; it is the suspicion that the co-presidency that was briefly floated at the 1976 GOP convention, when Gerald R. Ford considered picking Ronald Reagan, has come to pass. Sununu's fingerprints are on the levers from Moscow to Massachusetts.
Sen. Dale Bumpers (D-Ark.) spoke for just about everybody when he told the Arkansas Gazette last weekend that he thought Sununu "would probably get his way" in President Bush's first Supreme Court pick.
But Rudman, a popular, pragmatic middle-of-the-road second-termer, says he proposed Souter long before Sununu ever thought of him. In 1987, he told Howard H. Baker Jr., then the White House chief of staff, that Souter was Supreme Court caliber. Reagan chose Anthony M. Kennedy instead. In 1990, Souter, with a push from Rudman, was unanimously confirmed for the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Last Sunday, when Souter was summoned to the White House, he called Rudman. The senator picked him up, drove him to the airport, gave him cash, gave him advice: "When you talk to Bush, give him those legal pyrotechnics of yours." Monday after Bush announced the choice, Rudman took the shocked nominee to the Senate Dining Room for supper and put him up in his Capitol Hill apartment.
Rudman has pushed Souter since 1977, when the 1966 Harvard law graduate came to then-New Hampshire attorney general Rudman and dazzled the boss with his prose -- "scintillating, magnetic, revealing." He made Souter his deputy. When Rudman moved on, then-Gov. Meldrim Thomson made Souter attorney general.
In 1983, Rudman told the newly elected governor, Sununu, that the only thing he wanted for his help was a seat on the Supreme Court for Souter.
Rudman is expected to shepherd Souter's nomination safely through -- while Sununu continues to wink at the right and assure them that the justice-designate will not be a "judicial activist" -- a term that means he won't hand down decisions that will upset Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.).
The administration is acting as if it would be unthinkable for anyone to ask Souter his views on burning social questions, such as abortion. The president, when asked if he had asked Souter how he felt about Roe v. Wade, said, in effect, of course not, you cur.
The president's men are hinting that it is unconstitutional to raise the issues with a man who could decide how they will be dealt with for the next 30 years. The usually uninhibited Howard M. Metzenbaum (D-Ohio), of the Judiciary Committee, said he thought it would be "inappropriate" to inquire.
Some people are saying that Bush pulled a fast one by naming a cipher. That is a minority view. Senators can, if they want to, hear raves about Souter from Democrats such as Paul McEachern, who was twice defeated for governor by Sununu and regards Souter as "an honorable man" who appears in court so prepared, other judges listen to his every word.
Gerald L. Baliles (D), a former Virginia governor, also is a fan. He and Souter worked together as deputy attorneys general on Atlantic seaboard questions. Baliles found him to be "without a trace of ideology."
Even Renny Cushing of the Clamshell Alliance, who was arrested in Seabrook demonstrations and sent to jail at Souter's insistence, thinks well of him. The judge suspended sentences but Attorney General Souter dashed to court and begged for jail time for the protesters. Souter, says Cushing, is "basically a nice person."