Saturday, July 09, 2005

Two vacancies are better than one

Ed Kilgore at TPMCafe points out that Bush is in a tight spot with both Rehnquist and O'Connor retiring at once, since the religious right is unlikely to accept a compromise on either justice. Both justices must be sufficiently pro-life to support the overturn of Roe v. Wade. In fact, according to Kilgore's math, the next three nominees must take this stance:

Right now the Court is stacked 6-3 against overturning Roe v. Wade, based on the lineup in the 1992 Casey decision. That means overturning Roe--the obsessive and irreplaceable goal of the Cultural Right, not just with respect to the Supreme Court, but in terms of its alliance with the GOP--requires a net gain of two Justices for that position. Rehnquist actually voted against the original Roe decision. So his retirement would leave just two sure votes to overturn.

Thus, the Right has to run the table--a vote against Roe to replace O'Connor, a vote against Roe to replace Rehnquist, and a vote against Roe to replace the next retiree, probably Stevens.

As Kilgore puts it:
[W]hen it comes to the Court, the Cultural Right could not possibly care less about issues like business regulation or federalism or treatment of detainees at Gitmo. It's all about abortion--always has been, always will be.

If the Dems don't completely botch this--and with Reid at the helm, we can hope that they won't--Bush will be under pressure to nominate a moderate for at least one spot. If he had the benefit of several months between nominations, he'd arguably have to compromise less. Bush's early calls to tone down the heated rhetoric surrounding the first anticipated nomination are probably not so much directed at the left as at his own base.

According to this data, a slim majority of Americans supports Roe, and while most (78%) think abortion should remain legal in some circumstances, large majorities think it should be confined to the first trimester. Leaving abortion aside for a moment, a justice who would vote to overturn Roe would likely take a hard right position on any number of other issues. Who is appointed to the high court is arguably the most important consequence of last year's election. While Bush's supporters can point to his victory in November to claim that he should be able to appoint who he wants ("you lost, so quit whining and deal with the consequences"), the relatively close margin of victory, Bush's current abysmal poll numbers, and public opinion on Roe (among other issues) indicate otherwise.

I'd like to think the Dems could manage to pull this off. It depends on whether they can keep up the unity and focus they've displayed since the 2004 election, now when it matters most.

1 comment:

Michael said...

Dave, I have a couple of thoughts.
First this quote:
"[W]hen it comes to the Court, the Cultural Right could not possibly care less about issues like business regulation or federalism or treatment of detainees at Gitmo. It's all about abortion--always has been, always will be. "

Isn't this disturbing to you? It is to me. In fact, I am of the opinion that the majority of the cultural right only cares about two issues - Abortion and Homosexuality. In the end I believe this is why Bush won the election in the first place. I think the cultural right that we are speaking of where blinders about any other issues other than these two because these are the two issues that hit them as the core of their beliefs in a very open way. It's hard for most americans to relate to the immoral actions taking place at other places in the world when it really doesn't affect them directly. And that's not to say that homosexuality or Abortion affects them directly either, it's just right in front of their faces and attacking the very nature of who they are. We can get into a morality disscussion later, but I have a hard time understanding why abortion and homosexuality are more immoral than many of the hanus acts taking place in other parts of this world - even in our own country for that matter. This is also not to say that the cultural left doesn't where it's blinders on issues either.

Point two:

I'd like to add to what you said about how the Dems have the right to fight for getting moderates in the supreme court. Not only was the vote for president so close as you mentioned, meaning that a moderate is best suited for what our people really want, but from the beginning the President of the USA was never meant to have absolute power. Otherwise he would be King. The reality is we have a system that allows the other side to fight for their beliefs. Correct me if I am wrong, but no matter who Bush appoints it has to be approved by the senate from a committee within the senate?

Anyway, this will all be very interesting to see what happens.