So it comes to this. Five years of mounting hostility in the judicial confirmations war ends with an intense waiting game with special-interest groups on each side loading for bear and elbowing for influence.
But will the nominee be someone either side is pushing or will it be a quintessential decision by President Bush?
On the left, liberals, mostly emasculated by the filibuster compromise, have laid the groundwork for their next line of attack–that the President must consult with Senators Chuck Schumer (D.-N.Y.) and Teddy Kennedy (D.-Mass.) before he makes a Supreme Court nomination. Silly people. Why would the President consult with a few senators when he could wait and consult with 100 as the Constitution describes.
Some believe the left will not launch its most expensive missiles to assail Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s replacement, giving the President a pass in replacing an anti-Roe conservative for an anti-Roe conservative. This is profoundly uninformed about the relationship between Democrats, their liberal special interest groups and the money that gives them their daily bread.
Hubris will overtake liberals no matter who this President nominates because it pays to obstruct, and with the size of their staffs and their salaries, liberal leaders have to meet the payroll.
There is also posturing on the right and remarkable disarray as key leaders create the illusion of power solely to have the access that allows them to push their learned friends, while creating false stirs against potential nominees who are not their buddies. Other conservatives are less pushy but no less clear that we consider anything but the perfect nominee a betrayal with repercussions for the 2006 and 2008 elections.
GOP supporters are becoming more discerning and are not satisfied with bland conservatives with strict constructionist credentials bestowed by Washington insiders. “No more Souters” means no more nominees without a paper trail. Conservatives, however, recall that, according to his past writings, nominee Anthony Kennedy looked more predictable and solid than nominee Antonin Scalia. So it is also “No more Kennedys.”
But wait, we forgot about the President. Enter the politics of presidential legacy.
According to the cognoscenti, U.S. Appeals Judge Michael Luttig of the 4th Circuit is the frontrunner. Ironically, if a read of key opinion leaders and trial lawyers is any indicator, Luttig would probably be the most opposed nominee of all. Not because his views on Roe v. Wade are solid, but because of his views on the Endangered Species Act. He ruled against it. For the left, abortion is red meat, but environmental regulations means hard cash.
Others vie for a panoply of bland to gruff potential nominees. But the cognoscenti may not know the President. Bush likes to tell stories with his nominations and there is no reason for him to stop now.
Bush made a promise that he would nominate the first Hispanic to the Supreme Court. The President would be a fool if he does not keep that promise. No, not for the sake of even more Hispanic votes for the GOP in the next two elections, although that counts for something. No, not for the sake of sensitivity toward the fastest growing cultural minority in America, although that matters, too.
The President should nominate a Hispanic to the high court because it is an idea whose time has come. America needs some inspiration this summer, and after an 11-year wait, Bush may not get another Brigadoon moment.
Certainly, the nomination of a clearly anti-Roe Hispanic will unite Republican supporters as never before while utterly dividing Democrat senators from their radical special interest groups. This was why Democrats filibustered Miguel Estrada’s nomination two years ago.