Thursday, October 27, 2005

Calm Before the Storm

Today Harriet Miers withdrew her nomination for Supreme Court Justice. The right-wing conservative base was successful in their attempt to pressure her to withdraw. The radical social conservatives are now more likely to get a nominee who falls closer to their judicial philosophy, most importantly an anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage activist. A nominee more in line with Justices Scalia and Thomas is the only nominee that would please these right-wingers in order to balance out what they perceive to be an activist court controlled by liberals.

The far right's obsessive concern for the makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court distorts constitutional law. They believe they are entitled to an extremist nominee who will act as a radical activist to turn back social progress by decades. Harriet Miers may not have been qualified to be a Supreme Court Justice, but she did deserve a chance to be heard in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. On the other hand, the fact that she was given a second chance to complete a preliminary questionnaire, because her answers were woefully insufficient the first time says something about her qualifications to be a judge.

My hope is that Bush will nominate a moderate conservative more along the lines of Chief Justice John Roberts who is well qualified with a solid background in judicial matters. Unfortunately, the list of possible nominees include a large number of right-wingers who would be much more difficult to confirm than Roberts based on ideological concerns the liberals are likely to have. This is the scenario the conservative base have wanted all along, and that is why they forced a Miers withdrawal. They believe the conservative majority in the Senate will be enough to confirm a right-wing ideologue to the Supreme Court, and they may be right unless the nominee's judicial philosophy even remotely resembles that of the infamous Robert Bork, rejected by the Senate almost 20 years ago. I hold out hope that there are enough moderate conservatives to block a social conservative extremist nominee, like Bork, in the Senate.

Another factor in whom Bush nominates next will be the political climate following the conclusion of the CIA leak investigation. Combined with the damage the Administration has suffered from Hurricane Katrina, and the failed nomination of Harrier Miers, Bush cannot afford another significant black eye in the form of an indictment of his closest colleagues. It may be necessary for Bush to nominate an easily confirmable well qualified moderate conservative for the Supreme Court if he has any chance to salvage his Administration and the party for the mid-term elections of 2006. On the other hand, he risks alienating his base even further, as he did with the Miers nomination. However, Bush no longer needs to worry about re-election, and is free to move closer to the center.

Stay tuned for the fallout of the CIA leak investigation. Vice President Dick Cheney could be central to the political storm ready to hit the neoconservatives in Washington. More than likely, he will avoid an indictment, with his office staff members taking the heat for him, including Lewis "Scooter" Libby. If that is indeed the case, how is it that Cheney knew nothing about any attempt to leak the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame originating from his own office? After all, Libby could only have learned about Plame from Cheney himself. Enough of the speculation, I will reserve judgment for when the complete investigation is made public.

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