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By Geoff Metcalf

May 20, 2003

NewsWithViews.com

All the petty, mean spirited partisan stonewalling over judicial appointments has all be prelude. The main event is about to explode.

Newsday ran a story “Supreme Court Seat Shuffle? Judges' retirements would spark first shift in decades” and THIS is the main event…prime time…the sports franchise.

The word is that there could be two (count them)…TWO Supreme Court resignations next month. And the Senate Judiciary Committee can be expected to go ballistic over whomsoever President Bush nominates.

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, are both making quiet noises about bailing and that will spark the most sea change upheaval on the court in 32 years.

Although considered unlikely by most there is also the prospect of a third vacancy. Justice John Paul Stevens is 83, but has shown no signs of going quietly into the night…yet.

There are nine Justices on the Supremes. Demographically we have one in his 80s, 3 in their 70s, 4 in their 60s, and one kid who is 54. There are two women and one black. Politically, there is one Nixon appointment, one Ford appointment, three Reagan appointments, two appointments by Bush the Elder and 2 Clinton appointees.

Rehnquist has been around the longest having served since 1972. Stevens is second in longevity having served since 1975 but he is the oldest Justice. The first woman Justice (O’Connor) has been around since 1981. Scalia has been on the bench since 1986, Kennedy since 1988, Souter since 1990, Ginzburg (the second female) since 1993 and Breyer since 1994.

Democrats have been scared spitless about the prospect of Bush Supreme Court nominees from the jump, and even used the prospect as a failed campaign issue. Even if John Paul Stevens does not retire soon, it is probable that a second Bush term could result in that vacancy also is filled by G.W.

Democrats have jammed themselves between the rock and the hard place. Already smarting from the negative impact of their unprecedented filibuster/ stonewalling on Bush judicial nominees and a party being vilified by no less than Susan Estrich (Clinton/Gore sycophant and former Dukakis consultant) another series of attempting ‘Borkings’ could and would eviscerate the party.

What to do? What to do?

The Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats are facing a cruel and awkward reality check…albeit largely of their own making. Leahy, Biden et al may be inclined to attempt to ‘Bork’ whoever Bush nominates, but there are significant real political consequences to what they do and don’t do.

I would not be surprised to see Bush name a Hispanic (47-year old Alberto Gonzales is apparently a leading candidate to some, Judge Emilio Garza for others) and a woman (Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson; a black woman, Justice Janice Rogers Brown; and Judge Edith Jones). Although Democrats have demonstrated no diffidence to beat up on Estrada and Owens, constituents are getting hip. It is one thing to deny qualified Hispanic and female nominees a few months after an election and entirely different to try that before an election.

Frankly, from the perspective of an observer who has been harshly critical of the Democrats obstructionism AND the Republicans trepidation (until just recently) to flex some muscle, the inevitable Supreme Court nominee hearings should be delicious.

It has been almost a decade since Clinton nominated Breyer. That is the longest period without some turnover in 180 years.

Anathema to Democrats is the prospect of a predictably conservative court. The loss of Rehnquist wouldn’t necessarily alter the court’s voting patterns but O’Connor has been an occasional swing vote and her replacement ‘could’ result in a more conservative court.

The nexus of contention is the threat of overturning the Roe V. Wade abortion decision. Democrats are apoplectic that a conservative court would void Roe V. Wade.

There hasn’t been an opportunity for a ‘two-fer’ on the Supremes since Nixon appointed Rehnquist and Justice Lewis Powell.

The current situation is an opportunity for legislative, judicial, and executive sea change.

1  Democrats are in a very difficult position and were it not for their mean recalcitrance over judicial appointments might have been able to do some horse-trading in the coatroom.

2  However, with the prospect of Senate rule changes on filibustering ‘appointments’ democrats may have squandered any political coinage they had.

3  Any attempt to ‘Bork’ a conservative nominee could and would blow up in their waddled faces.

4  Republicans also face a challenge in that they can (and should) exploit recent advantages and not push the envelope ‘too far’.

Democrats need to take a deep breath and reassess the situation before falling victim to habit. IF Leahy, Biden, Kennedy, Feinstein et al try to play the same ole song, they could be contributing to devastating party destruction and irreparable damage to their party.

Now I know some conservative types would respond, “Cool”. However, for good or ill, the strength of the republic remains in balance. We need to rehabilitate the concept and practice of “the loyal opposition” and bipartisan cooperation.

Politics is the art of compromise. That means NEITHER side gets everything they want.

Dissent and debate is (or should be) healthy and productive. Neither the far left NOR the far right represent the majority of their constituents.

The pending inevitable Supreme Court nominees hearing represents an opportunity for both parties to demonstrate their best rather than their worst.

America is watching………

© 2003 Geoff Metcalf - All Rights Reserved


"Geoff Metcalf is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host for TALK AMERICA and a veteran media performer. He has had an eclectic professional background covering a wide spectrum of radio, television, magazine, and newspapers. A former Green Beret and retired Army officer he is in great demand as a speaker. . Visit Geoff's Web Site: www.geoffmetcalf.com. While you're at it - pick up a copy of Geoff's latest book!  E-mail: geoff@geoffmetcalf.com


 

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"Democrats have jammed themselves between the rock and the hard place. Already smarting from the negative impact of their unprecedented filibuster/ stonewalling on Bush judicial nominees and a party being vilified by no less than Susan Estrich"