Conservatives: No to Gonzales

A broad spectrum of nationally recognized conservative leaders is sending a clear message to President Bush: Please, don’t nominate Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

From former presidential candidate and now American Conservative Editor Pat Buchanan to Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol, the movement seems to be speaking with one voice.

“If the President picked Gonzales, it would break the hearts of conservatives,” Buchanan told Human Events. “The appointment would be the deflation of the whole conservative movement, because the activists would feel that the President had surrendered to [liberal Democratic Senators Chuck] Schumer [N.Y.] and [Teddy] Kennedy [Mass.]. And it would be the beginning of the end for Bush among his base, not unlike his father’s breaking his no-new-taxes pledge spelled his defeat in 1992.”

Kristol agreed. “Conservatives would be demoralized by a Gonzales appointment,” he said. Bush, Kristol added, would “pay a price, substantively and politically, if he were to name Gonzales. Reversing the trend on the Supreme Court has been such a core cause for the conservative movement for more than 40 years. Nixon tried but had [1969 appointee Clement] Haynsworth rejected by the Senate, and Reagan had Bork rejected by the Senate. The Democrats controlled the Senate in both cases, but today, it would be out of the question if a Republican President and a Republican Senate could not get through a nominee to click the court to the constitutional side.”

Noting that the court has been a helpful issue for Republicans in recent elections, Kristol pointed out that Bush’s nomination of Gonzales “would intensify the fact he is a lameduck, because he would no longer be seen as the leader of the conservative movement.”

Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation said it would be “tragic” if Bush tapped Gonzales for the Supreme Court. “It would split the coalition that twice elected George W. Bush and it would be tragic for the country,” Weyrich told Human Events. “Gonzales would be an in-kind replacement for Justice O’Connor, meaning he would be another justice who ‘grows in the job.’ He’s not for original intent but stare decisis [let the decision stand] and we can’t have that after the courts have taken away so many moral strictures.”

Weyrich also predicted bad political consequences if Bush turns to Gonzales. “The [Bush people] have made the case to us that elections matter and appointing Gonzales would undermine that and demoralize our people,” said Weyrich. “I beg the President not to make this appointment.”

Eagle Forum President Phyllis Schlafly said the “people who voted for George Bush would consider that appointment [of Gonzales] a betrayal. We expect President Bush to fulfill his promise to appoint justices in the mold of Scalia and Thomas.”

Manuel Miranda, chairman of the Third Branch Conference, a coalition of 2,000 groups, including Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council and the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said: “Many folks might not come out and vote in ’06 and ’08 if Gonzales were named, just as many folks did not come out for the President’s father in 1992 because he named David Souter to the Supreme Court.” He pointed to a recent conference call in which 70 of the organizations in his coalition participated. “The question was raised as to whether anyone could make a case for supporting a Gonzales appointment,” he said. “No one could.”

Trust, but Verify

Gary Bauer, past head of the Family Research Council and a Republican presidential candidate in 2000, said: “I believe the President should take note of the fact that his political enemies—those who wanted a ‘President Kerry’—are leading the charge to tell him he must lead and appoint [Gonzales]. He should stick to his guns and name a justice in the mold of Scalia and Thomas.”

Another former FRC head, Ken Connor, said “it was unlikely at this point that conservatives will get comfortable with Gen. Gonzales, even if the administration makes a big effort to say we should trust him. John Sununu [chief of staff to the senior President Bush] said we could trust David Souter when he was appointed to the court. I believe in the Reagan standard—trust, but verify.”