« The FrankenCongress Monster | Main | Gay Marriage Gains a Fan »

November 23, 2004

The Next Chief Justice (part 1)

The Daily Kos points to an interesting piece by Stuart Taylor on why Bush appointees to the Supreme Court might be less right-wing than everyone expects.

Taylor's argument, basically, is that Bush is unlikely to appoint Justices of the activist Scalia/Thomas sort (don't let anyone tell you that these guys are not judicial activists), because the overruling of Roe v. Wade is actually the Republicans' worst nightmare.  Taylor cites polls showing that most of the country would be horrified if Roe were actually overruled, and argues that the backlash at the polls would likely be swift and substantial (and Karl Rove knows it), so Bush is more likely to nominate Justices who are not on a mission to undo the last 75 years of constitutional law.

This is an interesting theory, and there may be some truth to it - but we will only know for sure if a moderate retires.  For now, it is important to remember that in light of Chief Justice Rehnquist's failing health, the Chief Justice's seat is likely to be the first one to come open.  And Rehnquist has long been on the far right of the Court (including being willing to overrule Roe).  So replacing Rehnquist with a Scalia/Thomas clone doesn't much change the balance on the Court - in fact, replacing Rehnquist with a less aggressive conservative would actually move the Court back toward the center (and you can be sure that the radical right understands this).  That fact, combined with the symbolic importance of the Chief Justice's seat, leads me to think that Bush will try to replace Rehnquist with a conservative activist, either by elevating Scalia or Thomas, or by naming someone from the outside that will make the radical right happy.

And that is exactly what the left should hope for.  Why?  More later....

Posted by David at 09:59 PM in Law and Lawyers | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The Next Chief Justice (part 1):


Dream on. Taylor is foolish to think the current leadership has any interest or feels a need to shore up moderate support to pursue a right-wing agenda. I would not bet on Bush to appoint a moderate to the bench because he's afraid of alienating the center and losing the Republican's political edge.

Whether or not polls accurately measure the pulse of the nation matters little to me when the Bush Administration and conservative media can easily manipulate people's perception. Consider this: Stuart Taylor's article doesn't point out that the same September 29th Annenberg survey he quotes (http://www.annenbergpublicpolicycenter.org/naes/press_releases.htm) also looked at the discrepancy between a person's actual stance on an issue (abortion, in this case) and their perceived agreement with a particular candidate's stance on the issue. So, while 55% opposed more restrictive abortion laws, only 44% PERCEIVE that they disagree with Bush on the same issue. What's the disconnect? I think the right-wingers do a better job of marketing and perception management. For instance, they brand themselves as "pro-life" not "anti-abortion".

My cynical view is that the Bush Administration struck some sort of deal, probably while duck-hunting, and are laying down a long-range strategy to overturn Roe v Wade. Bush probably does not feel the need to compromise his upper hand and is arrogant enough to make a big wager. He and his admin have also become experts at controlling the media and deceiving the masses. Case in point: the sneaky back-door anti-abortion clause that was included in a $388 bn must-pass federal spending bill that was passed by Congress the week before Thanksgiving.

The last four years have been a nightmare.
Call me a doomsayer, but if liberals don't wake up and anticipate each Republican move, Roe v Wade will be overturned before we know it.

I welcome commentary that gives me hope.

Posted by: MVP | Nov 29, 2004 4:52:53 PM

I have to agree with MVP. Bush and his cronies are serious reactionaries who want to take this country way back to the pre-Magna Carta days. This has been a worse nightmare than I could have imagined four years ago. I was chilled to the bone when Bush promised his crew that they were "Going to have some fun for the next four years."

Posted by: Roy Sansom | Nov 30, 2004 4:06:56 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.