I was driving home with my daughter Friday afternoon, listening to the Hugh Hewitt show on the radio. I made the mistake of not paying attention to his guest as they discussed the SCOTUS situation. After covering the usual run of who on the High Court besides O’Connor might resign, who Bush should consider, and whom he likes the most, Hugh’s guest pointed out the reason why the Democrats will not like the outcome, no matter what happens; the last meaningful ally of the Democratic Party may well leave them behind, rendering their fate absolute.
During the opening salvoes fired from Right and Left about whom will or should be nominated, it has struck me again how completely hypocritical the Democrats and their press are being, especially when their conduct regarding Clinton’s appointment philosophy is considered. It’s no surprise, to be sure, but the absolute hysteria from the Left, even before a nominee is known, is clearly being generated by a deep-seated fear, one held by all Liberals. The simple explanation can be stated as the last wing in the halls of American Power is changing management, and no matter whom George W. Bush nominates, that shadow will continue to fall on the Left.
Televised hearings regarding Supreme Court nominees began in 1982. Since then, President Reagan named Justice Rehnquist as Chief Justice (he was appointed an Associated Justice by President Nixon in 1972), and appointed Justices O’Connor, Scalia, and Kennedy as Associate Justices. Judge Robert Bork was viciously slandered during his hearings in 1987, and the Democrats’ tactic of innuendo and character assassination became recognized.
George H.W. Bush appointed Associate Justices Souter and Thomas. The Democrats tried their same slash-and-hate tactics again, but failed in both cases.
President Clinton nominated Judges Ginsberg and Breyer, both of whom sailed through their hearings. Democrats who pretend that “both sides do it” when confronted with their behavior, cannot produce evidence that supports such a lie. In the age of New Media, the clear divide between Republican methods of reviewing the work of a judge, and the Democrats’ established trail of slander and polarized definitions won’t be hidden the way it was in years past.
But to the point; During the days of FDR and LBJ, the Democrats enjoyed heavy majorities in Congress, especially the Senate. This meant that a nominee had to appeal to the Liberal and Union sentiment to be confirmed, and even Republican Presidents knew this. While President Reagan had the charisma to go over the heads of Congress to the American people for a cause or candidate, the beating of Bork by the Left showed the limit to his power. As Democratic control receded in the Senate, it became clear that a more Conservative Judge would get a more Conservative hearing. This is why the Democrats resorted to the filibuster during W’s first term; they had no other effective weapons in their arsenal.
Whatever one thinks of the the ‘Gang of 14’, one effect of the deal they made was that when the Democrats break the deal, as they surely will, the vote on the nominee will be validated that much more effectively. And it is hard to imagine this Senate denying any nominee submitted by Bush, especially with the keen mind of Fred Thompson checking the selection.
The near future is not bright for the Democrats. The House and Senate have been trending Republican for a long time now, and show no signs of turning Left. While a Democrat might be elected President in 2008 or 2012, the increasingly Conservative Senate will not allow another Ginsburg, especially given the behavior of the Democrats in past nominations. Consider how this atmosphere affects the likely career decisions of the remaining Justices. Of the other eight, 2 have been noted for health problems in the past years, and another (Stevens) is 85 years old. Still another is said to be intent on leaving the court while he is still young enough to enjoy his retirement. Bearing in mind that no new Justices have been added to the High Court since 1994, it is not at all unreasonable to believe that President George W. Bush will appoint at least three Justices, and possibly as many as five, before he leaves office. It is entirely possible that even with a disappointment, the Supreme Court after 2008 will be distinctly Originalist. With everything else that has happened in the past eleven years, that would be the worst nightmare in the mind of Democrat strategists.
This fall will be refreshing for the country, but a cold wind indeed for the Left.