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Sunday, July 03, 2005

Justice Gonzales?

I have very mixed feelings about Alberto Gonzales as a potential replacement for O'Connor. On the one hand, what I know of his time on the Texas Supreme Court makes me think he is a reasonable guy who listens to evidence and tries to apply the law as best as he understands it. On the other hand, he has a history of doing truly appalling things as an executive (two quick examples: his ridiculous but successful attempt to get then-Gov. Bush out of jury duty, which was evidently really about sparing Bush the embarrassment of confessing to his DUI history or perjuring himself; and, of course, his apparent role in developing---and total failure to oppose--legal arguments for allowing torture by the US government).

That said, as I watched the shows this morning, there was a good deal of talk about rightwing opposition to Gonzales; ditto for the Times and the Post today.

For example, an editorial on National Review Online says "Finally, the president has to know that conservatives, his supporters in good times and bad, would be appalled and demoralized by a Gonzales appointment." The main beef that NRO has with Gonzales seems to be that they feel he will be insufficiently rightwing on abortion issues. And, from the NY Times: "Paul M. Weyrich, a veteran conservative organizer and chairman of the Free Congress Foundation, said he had told administration officials that nominating Mr. Gonzales, whose views on abortion are considered suspect by religious conservatives, would fracture the president's conservative backers."

From reading and watching the news the last several years, I get the strong sense that most of the rightwing angst about Gonzales and abortion dates to his comment in the Texas Supreme Court decision In re Jane Doe 1(II), 19 S.W.3d 346 (Tex. 2000) (a case that is discussed here), in which he criticized then-colleague Priscilla Owen for substituting her own policy views for those of the Texas legislature in a case concerning parental notification and abortion. The money quote is that joining Owen's position "would be an unconscionable act of judicial activism."

In the meantime, you always hear/see rightwingers say that they want courts to "interpret the law", not "make new law", etc, etc.

So think about these two facts:
  1. Rightwingers say they want judges who interpret laws as written.

  2. Rightwingers oppose Attorney General Gonzales for the Supreme Court because they think he is insufficiently willing to restrict --- really, eliminate --- abortion rights.
So which is it?


Blogger Jon B said...

Inside the Senate how much sway do Conservative activists have ? Not as much as the ink they're getting implies.It is surely a difficult time to judge the outcomes, but I think Bush wants the legacy of appointing 1st Latino-American to Court, to solidify gains with fastest growing voting block and perhaps to assure Jeb's acsendancy. The political outweighs the ideological here.
Unless you believe that Born again Bush believes all the Christian Right's rhetoric, which I don't...he is not an ideologue, just a power monger who loves to win. To pull Latino voters away from Dems is more important to the Party than it is to push Court even farther right. They can move things rightward and replace a moderate vote with a faithful R.They won't lose any votes in the final analysis. Like with Clinton and Gays in the Military where is the Right to go ?

7/04/2005 8:19 AM  
Blogger strategery4 said...

On your "two facts" contrast, I think it's relatively easy to reconcile: conservatives think the court made new law in Roe, so that decision should be undone. I mean, there's no federal law underpinning Roe that says abortion is generally legal to which principle #1 applies.

Will Saletan has a good piece on Slate today about why Bush would be smart to fight for a conservative now (since Roe isn't really in the balance) and save Gonzales for Stevens' retirement (when, assuming O'Connor's replacement is pro-life, Roe would be up for grabs).

More broadly, I'd been thinking that the Dems should consider giving in on Roe (i.e., throwing the issue back to the states) and, you know, trying to win some elections. If the red-staters don't want abortions within their borders, let them deal with the consequences.

Final thought: on the Gonzales and broader torture issue, I think the Dems have been playing it exactly wrong. The only effective argument against torture these days is that it WON'T WORK. All this hemming and hawing over the treatment of prisoners is coming across as weak to the average citizen. Even if they are troubled intelectually, in their guts most of them wouldn't care less if the interrogators were shoving Koran's up prioners' asses so long as it reduced their perceived risk that their kids will be blown up? (Recall the subtlely effective Bush campaign ad where he talked about understanding the anguish of a parent "having to decide which child to pick up first on September the 11th" -- as if suburban schools outside of Russia were really at risk.) There are good arguments, however, that torture is counter-productive because you actually get bad information, which is actually worse than no information. I'm not saying Abu Ghraib wasn't completely stupid -- but again the argument should be that's its helping the enemy, not the Durbin-like argument that it's making us as bad as them.

7/06/2005 12:06 PM  

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