Thursday, July 07, 2005

Novak: Bush is 'biggest obstacle' to a conservative Supreme Court

Novak announces that Rehnquist is ready to announce retirement:

Bush is by far the bigger obstacle in the way of a conservative court. While Kennedy's ploy presents a temporary problem, Bush's stance could be fatal. The right's morale was devastated by the president's comments in a USA Today telephone interview published on the newspaper's front page Tuesday: ''Al Gonzales is a great friend of mine. When a friend gets attacked, I don't like it.''

Bush is a stubborn man, who sounded like he might really nominate Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in the face of deep and broad opposition from the president's own political base.

Adding to the tension is word from court sources that ailing Chief Justice William Rehnquist also will announce his retirement before the week is over. That would enable Bush to play this game: Name one justice no less conservative than Rehnquist, and name Gonzales, whose past record suggests he would replicate retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on abortion and possibly other social issues. Thus, the present ideological orientation of the court would be unchanged, which would suit the left just fine.
Republican Presidents are horrible at picking decent Supreme Court justices, and for the record, I'm tired of the issue of SC justices being framed as a "conservative" thing. What is particularly "conservative" about reading the actual words of the Constitution and applying the reasonable meaning of those words to the cases before you? I can see that being called "literalist", perhaps, but why "conservative"? It seems that the opposite of this is a judge who'd look at the case before him, determine an intuitively correct outcome, and then move to the language of the Constitution and the applicable precedent in order to provide some authority for the "intuitively correct" decision. That may be described as "intuitionist", perhaps, but I don't see why it's necessarily "liberal". This is a battle between the "living Constitution" folks and the "original intent" folks. One of the underlying purposes of the Constitution was to constrain the power of the national government against the individual. Isn't limited government a particularly liberal idea? Isn't this, in fact, the foundational idea of western liberal democracy? Is no one on the left concerned about the unfettered power of a judge, Republican or Democrat, who is free to decide a case primarily according to his own opinion rather than the content of the Constitution? Isn't there something scary about a judge, left or right, who decides cases according to his own personal whims?


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