Let the Games Begin!
That bell you heard last Friday afternoon was the opening of round one of what is sure to be the greatest fight over a judicial nomination in the history of this country. Not that it should be. But it will be, for a whole host of reasons, but to summarize: when Republican's get to pick nominees, it's a fight. Period. Also, this will be the first such dust-up to occur since the advent of the twenty-four hour news cycle, the Internet and, more recently, the blogosphere. Further, the country is more politically polarized than ever.
Troops are primed for a fight, which many view as an extension of the elections themselves. And the liberals will go ballistic no matter who the nominee is simply because they have to, their constituent groups (such as NARAL, People for the American Way, etc.) demand it. Add to this the fact that the judiciary is the last major political stronghold of liberalism in America today and we've got the political equivalent of a wrestling "cage match".
One can almost imagine the reams of press releases already prepared on computers in the offices of such esteemed Senators as Ted Kennedy and Chuck Schumer. Such releases would have a convenient blank line for the as-yet-unnamed nominee, and are sure to contain wild charges and accusations about their philosophy, (suggesting they will roll back civil rights, force women to walk two steps behind their men, blah, blah, blah).
Someone had a great suggestion about how to get the left exhaust itself. Nominate Ann Coulter. The liberals would have fits and vitriol would rise to historic proportions. Then, just as the American people are truly exhausted with the show, have Coulter politely step aside and then put up someone out of the Scalia/Thomas mold. They would look moderate by comparison. At a minimum, the confirmation hearings would be entertaining. I can see it now, Coulter and Ted Kennedy getting into a verbal smack-down on live TV.
The great thing about O'Conner's retirement (other than replacing her) is that it virtually guarantees that Bush will get to pick at least two justices for the court, meaning that Rehnquist is all but out the door, (and maybe was bolting for the door, but got pre-empted by O'Connor). Which probably means Bush will have had two picks by this time next year. At that point, speculation falls on Stevens and Ginsburg and W will still have two and a half years left on his term. THIS is what those recent elections were all about folks.
When Clinton appointed the extremely liberal Ginsburg to the Court, she replaced the reliably conservative Byron White, thus tilting the court further left. This time conservatives won and when Bush replaces O'Connor with a more reliable conservative, the Court will at best be back to where it was before Clinton had his turn at it. Elections matter, and they should.
For now, everyone is engaged in the great parlor game of divining "who" the nominee will be. There seems to be a pretty good consensus on most people's short lists, usually including names such as Emilio Garza, Janice Rogers-Brown, Priscilla Owen, Michael Luttig, Sam Alito, Edith Jones, John Roberts and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Of those, all would be well pleasing to conservatives with the exception of Gonzales. The only problem there is Bush and Gonzales are very close and he's said to like the idea of putting a Hispanic on the Court.
From a political standpoint, a Gonzales appointment would be terrible for the Republican coalition a coalition whose grassroots are planted firmly among conservatives. Many of them have suggested that "Gonzales is Spanish for Souter". If it's Gonzales, they will feel betrayed, and that would mean political trouble for the GOP in future elections.
My own thinking at this point is that Bush will probably go with a woman. And if Bush nominates a woman now, I think there's a risk of a Gonzales appointment later when Rehnquist steps down. Conversely, if he were to pick Garza now, we're almost guaranteed to get a woman for the next pick, which obviously would preclude Gonzales.
In the wake of the vacancy there has been a predictable increase in the abortion related rhetoric, specifically from the pro-abortion crowd. This has a good bit to do with fundraising and organization to be sure, but it is way overblown for several reasons.
First, replacing O'Connor won't make a difference. Not in the short term anyway. The last time the issue was broached it resulted in a 5-4 pro-Roe majority. Since that time we've had Justice White (anti-Roe) replaced by Ginsburg (pro-Roe). So replacing "pro-Roe" O'Connor will still result in a 5-4 "pro-Roe" situation. And when Rehnquist retires, we've got the same situation, (with the anti-Roe forces holding their own). The potential change would come if Ginsburg (who's in poor health) or Stevens (who's 85 years old) were to retire.
The other point that gets overlooked on the left side of the aisle is that, if Roe were overturned, it wouldn't "end" abortion, it would simply return the issue from whence it was kidnapped by an activist court over 30 years ago the democratic, political process.
Before this is over, we'll have a filibuster, more debates about the "nuclear option" and be treated to Democrat's cries that the Republicans are "drunk with power" and are disenfranchising the minority.
The bottom line is that there is going to be a nasty, knock-down, drag-out fight no matter what. So we may as well make it worth fighting for. Time to swing for the fences. Or as someone once said, "let slip the dogs of war!"