Saturday, September 03, 2005

And now... on top of it all...

Chief Justice William Rehnquist has passed away. This was a man I don't often agree with but wouldn't want to debate with, as he has really thought through his decisions. It also gives the President two appointments to the court, which I think we gathered he'd get. He got one swing justice and one smart conservative to replace. It's not as if he got two progressives, but it will have a major effect on the courts. Two appointments in one year is a lot for any President. Bush will leave an indellible mark here.

It's amazing that this would happen, on top of the New Orleans tragedy.

But, I think Democrats should realize that the government's inability to prevent or even mitigate that tragedy, along with the recent bad news from Iraq, has weakened Bush. It's time for the opposition party to oppose. I doubt they can stop John Roberts and, despite serious reservations about him, I'm not sure that they should. I can live with a justice who I disagree with but still see as reasonable.

What Bush should finally acknowledge, though, and what he has never admitted, is that despite his squeaking into office in 2000 and his narrow victory in 2004, this country is divided and he represents us all. I think that anyone to the right of Roberts would be unacceptable. Let's see if the Democrats, neutered so far for 5 years, have gained courage as Bush's popularity has dropped over Iraq and New Orleans. Were the election held today, Bush might well lose. That's a tough call to make and it isn't of course, a definite call, but I think that even his partisans would admit he'd be in a lot more trouble, and he was in trouble a year ago. Bush is now vulnerable to outright challenge. I wonder if the Democrats will try, or if they've consigned themselves to minority status for the rest of our upcoming history.

I'm framing this as a minor fight. I don't expect Bush to appoint a liberal. Heck, he's President, he has his beliefs, I wouldn't even ask him to appoint a liberal. The Democrats shouldn't reject a reasonable, thoughtful appointment. But they should not be streamrolled. Not now. Not by a vulnerable President. If they are, then the left in America, such as it is, is doomed. It's one thing to cower in front of a bully. It's another thing to cower in front of a bully with a bum knee.

Watch this one. And, if you've never written or called your congressional reps, if you've never thought it was worth the time, consider doing so during the second Supreme Court appointment. Remember, we won't get a liberal, but some conservative justices, like Sandra Day O'Connor and, on fewer occasions, like William Rehnquist, have created a law that both parties can live by. We have the right to ask, at least, for that.


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