Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Questions for Bush's Supreme Court Nominee

There's a lot of speculation about President Bush's upcoming Supreme Court nomination. My opinion is that Bush is going to push for a hard-right nomination--maybe family lackey and torture-memo author (and therefore war criminal) Alberto Gonzales. What should the Democrats do in response? What they probably will do is focus on Roe v Wade and try to dig up as much personal dirt as they can on Bush's nominee. That strategy worked with Bork and it almost worked with Thomas. No doubt, the Democratic leadership will dip into the well again. They're nothing if not predictable.Nevertheless, I'd like to suggest some new angles of questioning.First, Harry Reid, Democratic senators, and the left-leaning media should ask Bush nominees how much priority they give to the precedents of prior Supreme Court decisions in their understanding of the law. It's a legitimate question. Besides precedents, there's constitutional principle, statute law, and lower court decisions, and various factual elements to weigh in Supreme Court decisions. So how does a nomineee think that precedents like Brown v Board of Education, Miranda v Arizona, Roe v Wade, Lawrence v Texas and other major decisions should weigh in making current decisions? And the Democrats should press for an answer.A second issue that the Dems should ask about is contraception. The right-wing sees overturning Roe v Wade as only one pillar of their attack on sexual freedom. The second pillar is Griswold v Connecticut, the decision that made it illegal to restrict information about contraception for married couples. The Democrats should question Bush nominees closely about contraception as a way to test the right-wing bonafides of the nominee and to publicize the over-all weirdness of the Christian right.A third thing the Dems could do is question the nominee about the relation between the law and groups that have been subject to "extraordinary government power"--blacks in relation to racism, women in relation to employment, gays, etc. To what extent should the law be tailored to address the discrimination faced by these groups? To what extent should historical precedents continue to apply? To what extent would the nominee want to overthrow such precedents? This is a general way to question nominees on the legitimate power of government, tradition, the Constitution, etc.

When will War Supporters Take Responsibility

The War in Iraq has become such a disaster that those who originally supported the war really need to take stock. Polls indicate that the process of re-evaluation has already gone a long way. I believe that a majority of the American population now believes that the war wasn't worthwhile. Likewise, there's a few Republicans like Tucker Carlson and Walter Jones who are engaged in a public re-thinking. But we need more. It's clear that the Bush administration engaged in a broad campaign of deception to promote the invasion, that the Bush administration was completely unprepared for the occupation, and that the Bush administration still hasn't come up with a successful policy for dealing with the insurgency. At best, Iraq is going to be an unstable banana republic with a permanent insurgency that doubles as a training ground for global terrorism. It's time for people of good conscience on the right to admit they were wrong and press the political class (the Bush administration and their inept Democratic opponents) into a broad re-evaluation of the war on terrorism.

A Permanent Base for Global Terrorists

Last week Newsweek reported that "Iraq is producing a new corps of master terrorists with an incandescent hatred for the United States." They should have added that Iraq will be producing well-trained and highly motivated terrorists for a long time to come. The Sunni-based insurgency will be with us for years. Haven't Rush Limbaugh and the right-wingers been saying that we can expect the insurgency to last seven years? And I think Donald Rumsfeld was saying that insurgencies could last up to twelve years a couple of weeks ago. Yeah, the insurgency will be on its "last legs" for twelve years. But really, there is NO current prospect that the insurgency will end. What the Bush administration hopes is that the Shiite-based Iraqi government will be strong enough to fight the insurgency without 140,000 American troops after three or four years. However, that's ignoring that fact that the Sunni insurgency against the Shiite "apostates" and their American supporters will still serve as an excellent training ground for global terrorist recruits. Creating a permanent base for global terrorists--just another dimension of the monumental disaster that the Bush administration has created through their invasion of Iraq.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Replacing Sandy

Bush will follow form and tic tac toe to the far right on replacing O'Connor. I would say tack in the nautical sense, but Bush likes to keep things simple and leave the complex game-playing to Rove and the rest of the boys. So tic tac toe it is.

CHRISTMAS FOR THE FAR RIGHT--the Bush administration has wanted to move the Federal Judiciary to the far right as much as possible (that's the reason for hanging in on Owens, Brown, etc.). The idea is to the right-wing is to lock in the courts while they have control over the Presidency and Congress. That way, their judicial legacy will carry on even if the Republicans start losing elections. The stakes are especially high in O'Connor's replacement because she was such a swing vote. Bush is going to appoint the hardest right-winger he can. Maybe Janice Brown of the "New Deal was Socialism" fame has a sister somewhere.

A GRATUITOUS SIDE PREDICTION--there will be a steady dribble of articles in the mainstream media about how "surprisingly moderate" the nominee is. After all, Caligula was moderate compared to Nero.

RED MEAT FOR DOWN DOGS-- from Bush's (really Rove's) point of view, tacking right would also be good politics because it would mobilize the GOP's right-wing popular base and provide tons of grist for the talk-radio, Fox, and right-wing religious mill. The right-wing has been down at the mouth about the Iraq war lately and there's been a softening on some issues in Bush's poll numbers among Republicans. The Bush administration will view tacking right on O'Connor's appointment as a way to prop up their standing with their base heading into the 2006 elections. The mainstream media keeps thinking that Bush will start trying to appeal to moderates, but the strategy will be for a right-wing media blitz to intimidate easy-to-frighten moderate voters into agreeing with Bush.

ANOTHER GRATUITOUS SIDE PREDICTION--There will be no coverage from the Mainstream media on how Bush's appointment plays into the politics of the extreme Republican right. Partly because of their fear of the right, the mainstream media is still into the idea of translating the right into a moderate/liberal political language. The media never really catches up to the right.

WHEN IN DOUBT, CONFRONT--Bush (ok, probably Rove) has figured out that confronting Congressional Democrats is good for business. First, he's won almost all the big smackdowns (the 2001 tax bill, authorization to invade, appointments of Owens and Brown, the Homeland Security Bill, etc.). But more to the point, Bush has discovered that the public generally sympathizes with the President in situations of intense conflict with the opposition in Congress. This can be seen during the government shutdown battle between Clinton and Gingrich. It wasn't so much that Gingrich was stupid and arrogant (although he was) but that Clinton had the advantage of being President. Bush can be stupid and arrogant (let me count the ways), but can get away with it because he's president. As a result, the Bush administration already has the Democrats in a box. If the Dems don't fight a far right-wing appointment, then their own base could get discouraged, stop contributing to the party, and start looking for a party with more backbone (always a temptation). If the Dems do fight hard, the public will blame them rather than Bush for the ugliness of the confrontation.

Nominating a hard-line right-winger looks like a winner for Bush. Of course, he could choose to reward his favorite torture lawyer as well.