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It looks like the White House wants to push Attorney General Alberto Gonzales as the likely replacement for Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court. Today's Washington Post analysis clearly indicates that a significant effort has begun to support Gonzalez' credentials as a conservative despite the fears of the GOP base, which unexpectedly and firmly rejected Gonzalez:
Supporters of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales have launched a campaign to rebut criticism that he is not reliably conservative enough to serve on the Supreme Court, a move likely to intensify a rift within Republican circles over one of President Bush's closest confidants.
The group of former Gonzales aides and other Republicans still in the Bush administration -- most of whom are close to top White House officials -- are coordinating with one another, sharpening common lines of argument, then circulating these points on Capitol Hill, in conservative circles and with reporters, according to several people involved. ...
Republican operatives close to the White House have long believed that President Bush would like to nominate Gonzales, not only because of their friendship but also because of the historic opportunity it would afford him to appoint the first Hispanic justice -- a potential major boost in his long-running campaign to build Republican support among the growing Hispanic population.
We all know the arguments for and against Gonzalez, and the Post mentions a couple of them in the article. He voted to uphold a teenager's access to abortion without parental notification while on the Texas Supreme Court, for one thing. Abortion opponents point to that vote and argue that he will prove too deferential to stare decisis on abortion law. However, the Post points out that the case did not rely on an interpretation of Roe v Wade but a specific state law passed by the Texas legislature providing judicial bypasses to parental notification.
In other words, a vote to deny her access under the state law would have been judicial activism, only from the right -- an overruling of duly enacted law by the legislature and signed by the executive. It does give one a sense of being hoist on one's own petard.
Gonzalez' approach to affirmative action will cause more problems for him with the base. He successfully argued for a moderate approach to limiting such programs rather than eliminating them altogether when preparing the administration response to the Supreme Court in the Michigan case. Unlike his vote on the Texas Supreme Court, his argument went to the politics of the case and the direction of administration policy. It also argued against the universal application of the Fourteenth Amendment by the Court, which should have sunk such programs at their launch, regardless of their value. It strongly indicates a less-than-convincing adherence to strict constructionism.
The political aspect of the effort to rehab Gonzalez for the conservative base is more interesting. Take a look at the roster of people coming out publicly for Gonzalez: John Cornyn, David Leitch, Brad Berenson, and more quietly others still attached to the White House, the Post says. John Cornyn will prove an especially daunting supporter, coming from Texas where he saw Gonzalez operating at much closer range than many of his critics. In fact, the people who seem determined to lead the public charm offensive worked closest with Gonzalez over the past couple of years.
On the other hand, the opposition to Gonzalez appears just as daunting. The highly respected William Kristol and others like him who help shape opinion and provide the intellectual foundation of modern conservatism remain firmly opposed. Kristol especially notes that Bush has a unique opportunity to shift the court to the right with the GOP holding both the White House and the Senate and potentially three or four openings in this term. Why risk the opportunity when other, better candidates exist?
Why indeed? I agree with Cornyn that the opposition to Gonzalez may have been, and may continue to be, somewhat hysterical. However, I would rather spend the limited opportunities Bush gets on appointees with known commitments to conservative approaches to Constitutional law -- jurists like Janice Rogers Brown, Edith Hollan Jones, Michael Luttig, Michael McConnell, and others in their mold. The Gonzalez boosters ask us to settle for someone who might pan out, but after the Souter experience, I'd prefer a bit more of a certainty.Sphere It View blog reactions
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As the Washington Post reports: Supporters of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales have launched a campaign to rebut criticism that... [Read More]
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» Wait for Gonzalez from Conservative Musings
Captain Ed posts about the behind the scenes effort at the White House to portray Attorney General Gonzalez as a bonafide conservative and thus a good choice for the remaining Supreme Court vacancy. I remain skeptical. It sounds like he [Read More]
Tracked on September 10, 2005 5:22 PM
» Wait for Gonzalez from Conservative Musings
Captain Ed posts about the behind the scenes effort at the White House to portray Attorney General Gonzalez as a bonafide conservative and thus a good choice for the remaining Supreme Court vacancy. I remain skeptical. It sounds like he is wanted mor... [Read More]
Tracked on September 10, 2005 8:50 PM
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