Sunday, May 29, 2005

White House "Winnowing" for Rehnquist's Successor

Associated Press Reporter Deb Riechmann wrote that "The White House has laid the groundwork to place more conservatives on the Supreme Court, scrutinizing the backgrounds and legal views of a shrinking list of candidates amid speculation that ailing Chief Justice William Rehnquist soon will step down."

This compromise has stood for no more than a week, and already it is being destroyed. There is a good chance that Rehnquist will leave at the end of June, when the current court session concludes. "The vacancy could come anytime after this Memorial Day weekend, we think, said Sean reaction, director of the conservative Committee for Justice. Conservative and liberal groups are already gearing up for a fight. And of course, the Bush White House is drawing up a list of nominees to fill any open slots on the court.

Bush will choose a hard-lined conservative. It is no secret that he wants to tilt the court from its moderate stance to a far more conservative stance. It is also no surprise that Bush will select such hard-lined conservatives as a means of appeasing and paying back the Christian evangelists that have taken control of the Republican Party leadership. For thirty years, the Christian fundamentalists have wanted to reverse the court's decision on abortion. They've wanted to reinstate school prayer, outlaw gay marriages, and effectively destroy the separation of church and state. Bush is happy to oblige them. It is also no secret that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist will also oblige the Christian fundamentalists. Frist wants to succeed to the presidency after Bush steps down in 2008. And in order for Frist to do so, he is going to have to placate the Religious Right. If Rehnquist steps down, Bush will elevate Antonin Scalia as Chief Justice. I think Clarence Thomas will be a little too controversial, considering the allegations of sexual harassment and Anita Hill will probably resurface in the confirmation hearings. Then again, Thomas could become the first black Chief Justice on the Supreme Court, allowing Bush a political victory which the Republicans can use to court the black vote in 2008. Bush would then nominate a hard-lined conservative. The Democrats would filibuster the nomination, and Bill Frist would pull the nuclear option out again to stop the filibuster.

This time, there will be no compromise. There is no way that the seven Republicans and seven Democrats can find a common ground for a Supreme Court nominee. Bush will certainly not accept a centrist judge--the religious Right would condemn him and Frist for tactually accepting this compromise. The Religious Right condemned Frist for allowing the compromise to go through for the appellate judges. They are not going to allow this for a Supreme Court judge--not if Frist wants to court their votes for 2008. And Bush has never given in to compromise on selecting federal judges--even when Senate Democrats have been able to block his selections. Bush just keeps renominating them to the court. While Bush may be hoping that the Senate would be a rubber stamp for his selections, it will not happen in this case--the stakes are way too high. Selecting a hard-lined conservative to the Supreme Court could ignite a firestorm in this country--something we've probably haven't seen since the late 60s or early 70s. The Democrats have nothing to lose here. If the Republicans and Bush try to force a hard-lined nominee down the Senate's throat, the Democrats can claim the Republicans are abusing their power in the government. The Democrats can accuse the Republicans of 'packing the Supreme Court,' while holding the line until the 2006 elections. The Republicans could try to claim that the Democrats are being obstructionist, however, that charge is diluted since the Republicans control both the Congress and the Presidency. The filibuster will take place. And the government will effectively shut down as both sides throw insults and mud at each other, forcing the political parties and the government to even lower levels of spite, insults, hatred, and rancor.

Oh, if you thought the 2004 elections were bad, just wait until 2006.

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