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February 21, 2004
The Bush Message to the Conservative Base

Yesterday, President Bush bypassed an onbstructionist Senate and used a recess appointment to place William Pryor, the Alabama Attorney General, to the federal appellate court:

After three years of watching Senate Democrats block his judicial nominees, President Bush trumped them for the second time this year by installing Alabama Attorney General William Pryor on the federal appeals court. ... Bush on Friday gave Pryor an almost two-year stint on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, calling him a "leading American lawyer" and saying Democrats had used "unprecedented obstructionist tactics" last year to stop him and five other nominees.

Democrats disliked Pryor for one reason and one reason only -- they felt his devout Catholocism would eventually mean that he would rule against abortion if given a chance, despite Pryor's record of upholding the rule of law. This ridiculous construct somehow allowed the Democrats in the Senate to pass off their opposition as principled, when in fact it demonstrated nothing more than religious bigotry; under their approach, no Catholic would be qualified to sit on an appellate bench, an attitude that Catholics should find repugnant. In fact, one of the leaders of this cause is none other than Ted Kennedy, whose own brother had to fight the same slur that he heaps on Pryor: that his Catholicism makes him answer to the Pope rather than the Constitution. Shameful.

But Bush's real message isn't intended for those recalcitrant Senators who won't allow an up-or-down vote on nominees. This message is for those recalcitrant members of Bush's voter base who, disenchanted with what they see as profligate social spending and a meager devotion to conservative principles, threaten to "sit on their hands" in November. This strategy has been leaking all over the blogosphere and talk-radio circuits. Michael Savage in particular likes to beat this horse to death on a daily basis. The idea is that if their abstention allows Kerry to take the White House but Republicans can still hold onto both houses of Congress, then the resultant gridlock will freeze spending and make the Republicans take the hard-right base more seriously in 2008. They point to the Goldwater fiasco in 1964 as an example of how a terrible defeat can refocus a political party, and propose to take that road in November.

Uh-huh. Sounds terrific (even though it took 30 years for the Republicans to take control of Congress after the Goldwater debacle), but it ignores two key issues: the war on terror and the appointment of federal judges. Bush spoke to the latter issue yesterday, and this is his message: Four Supreme Court positions. Several more Appellate Court positions. Which party do you want to see in charge of deciding who fills those roles? Because an abstention in 2004 won't just resonate for four years -- it will resonate for decades. If they decide that having a Massachussetts liberal make those appointments serves their cause better, then they have chosen to go down in flames and take everyone with them.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 21, 2004 10:49 AM

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