Sunday, October 09, 2005

George W. Bush : No Supersuit, But No Kryptonite, Either


I will start by stating the obvious - we do not need or want Activist judges. I throw that out here, because it illustrates a frustrating difference between the Left and Right on the matter of judicial activism. Liberals see what they consider injustice, and want to use the Courts to remedy that injustice. They are quite willing to change the meaning and intent of the Constitution to support their actions. Constructionists, on the other hand, are compelled to obey the Constitution, and will not act outside the powers granted by it. So, when a Constructionist court comes to power, while they may wish to immediately undo the damage done by the Activist court before them, they cannot do so without support from the Constitution. These limits can be infuriating, but they are the rules by which Conservatives operate. People forget them sometimes, and demand things from their elected leaders which go outside the lines.

Hurricane Katrina was a particularly ludicrous example of how people often expect the absurd from the government. President Bush was expected to personally anticipate every twist in the course of the storm, hand-hold the local and state officials through all their responsibilities, and if necessary abrogate his responsibilities to get federal troops into New Orleans to take control. Naturally, if President Bush had actually done any of those excesses, we should hear how he was usurping his powers, but never mind. The point is, that millions of Americans act as if the President is a Superhero, who must rush to the need wherever it is, taking on the evil-doers with suitable sound effects and appropriate levels of cartoon violence.

And that crowd demanding that Dubya put on the Supersuit includes Conservatives. They see a potential fight between Liberals and Conservatives, frame it as the final battle between the Powers of Good and Donkey, and demand a political Armageddon, in large part because they are so sure they will win. When that comes to appointing Supreme Court justices, simply naming a competent and honorable person will not do; they demand a "known" Constructionist (even though History shows us that judges very often rule differently on the High Court than they did at the lower level), and eagerly anticipate a bloody and decisive battle, to the end of crushing the evil forces of Liberalism. The possibility that such conflicts may carry other costs they have not considered, or that they might lose by demanding such an all-out offensive, is rejected out of hand. And, having chosen an immature demand, they naturally pursue it with an immature rationale, insulting anyone who questions or criticizes their method, or who suggests that they might be overlooking other salient aspects to the matter.

President Bush is well aware of the "Six Roads" I noted earlier in the week. He understands that he must consider the needs of the House of Representatives, and even the needs of those vain puff pieces in the Senate. He understands that a necessary confrontation is one thing, but that going after a fight that risks long-term goals for small gains is simply unwise. He understands that there are likely more vacancies to fill soon on the High Court, but not if he appears to be looking only for extremist justices. Ginsberg, Stevens, and Souter may all choose to retire soon, or they may hang on until after 2008, when they will see their seats filled by a different President. Dubya needs to convince them that he will be at least as reasonable as the person who will be elected in 2008. Dubya understands that if he appears to be catering to the Hard Right in his selections, this will hurt the Republican Party in states where they are still thought of as extremists, places like Florida and Pennsylvania and California, where high stakes remain for not only Senate and Congressional elections, but also for support for Conservatives in the 2008 election. This does not mean that Bush will not support true Conservatives, but he will not seek to display his choices in a way which will inspire useless conflict with Media or with the Lobbyists, who have no direct power but can still damage a careless President by wearing away support from his initiatives and programs. For all the talk about the President, Bush has done a very respectable job overall, not least because he keeps his priorities straight.

I never got into "Superman" much, because for all his strength and special powers, he was not very wise or inclined to consider his actions in terms of consequences ahead of time, or to weigh his options in a broad context of cumulative effect. Flashy yes, but not really effective for what he had to work with. President Bush, on the other hand, lacks the appearance of omnipotence, and so steps aside from the gunfighter scenario, but he still retains his full authority and every weapon at his disposal. No supersuit, but no kryptonite, either.

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