Monday, October 03, 2005

Bush's Supreme Court Showdown Looms This Week

Given all the muck that surrounds President Bush and the GOP right now, it's almost certain he'll shoot out of the starting gate this week with a nomination of his new Supreme Court justice as a diversionary tactic. He's done it before. It's right out of the Karl Rove playbook. But the real question is who Bush will name to the high court--which begins its new session today--and will he attempt to fulfill his dream of shifting the judiciary aggressively to the right, or will he bow to pressure and maintain the court's balance? The Dem's threw him a bone last week and confirmed John Roberts Jr. as Chief Justice, a strategy the rest of us will have to live with for the next 35 years or so. But Democrats have vowed to raise holy hell if Bush attempts to replace the retiring swing vote, Sandra Day O'Connor, with a conservative ideologue.

To be sure, the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Arlen Specter (R-PA) and which includes outspoken Democrats such as Chuck Schumer (NY), Ted Kennedy (MA), Dick Durbin (IL), Diane Feinstein (CA) and Joe Biden Jr. (DE), will be a fierce battleground should the nomination be controversial. This appointment is much too critical to let pass without a bloody fight. The fate of abortion, civil rights, voting rights, gay rights, employees' rights, school prayer, separation of church and state, school integration and the environment hangs in the balance. Ultimately, we could see the Dem's filibuster, at which point embattled Majority Leader Bill Frist (TN) would face a tough decision on whether to invoke the dreaded "nuclear option" or tell Bush to send up a more consensus candidate. With SEC and Justice Department probes hanging over his head, you'd think the last thing Frist wants is more heat.

Under the current rules, if the nominee makes it out of committee and to the Senate floor, Democrats, the minority party, have only one weapon to hold up confirmation and that's the filibuster. It takes a three-fifths majority, or 60 votes, to override a filibuster. That's five more votes than the GOP has. As a counter, the Republicans could drop the nuclear bomb and change the rules, requiring only a simple majority of 50 votes plus VP Dick Cheney, and bring a cloture vote. The nominee would then be easily confirmed. If that were to happen, the Democrats have vowed retaliation, threatening to bring Senate business to a grinding halt. Not a pretty picture, to say the least. And certainly not a PR mess Bush and the GOP needs right now.

Can Bush really handle another political hailstorm? His Iraq war is spiraling out of control. His Senate and House leadership, Frist and Rep. Tom Delay (TX), are under legal fire. His top advisor, Karl Rove, and Cheney's chief Lewis "Scooter" Libby, could be indicted for perjury or worse in a matter of weeks in the CIA leak investigation. White House aide, David Safavian, was recently arrested on obstruction charges. GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff's been indicted on wire fraud and conspiracy charges. The Bushies are still reeling from their pathetic response to Hurricane Katrina. Americans are fed up with astronomical gas and oil prices, record deficits and Congress's performance. Two-thirds think the U.S. is headed in the wrong direction, and Bush's approval ratings are at a putrid 38%. Logically, he cannot withstand another major political distraction. But the thing is, Bush is the most stubborn, arrogant, out of touch president in modern history, maybe ever, and he'll likely flip us the bird and plow forward with his radical agenda. Remember, this is a man who desperately wants a legacy of reshaping the court for decades to come.

There's much speculation that Bush'll nominate either a woman, a latino or a black, and the names mentioned most are White House Counsel Harriet Miers; Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; and PepsiCo lawyer Larry Thompson, who was the U.S.'s highest-ranking black law enforcement official when he served Bush 41 as Deputy Attorney General. But as he did in nominating Roberts, Bush could surprise everyone and appoint someone not on the short list. Maybe even another rich white male. Needless to say, it's going to be a very interesting week. Andy

No comments: