A Bush Win Would Complete the Hat Trick
– White House, Legislative and Judicial
August 13, 2004
by Dan Gougherty
his acceptance speech, Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry did not
touch on what is one of the president's most crucial and longest-lasting
legacies, the appointment of federal judges.
Constitutionally, the president is obliged and eager to make appointments
to the district, appellate and Supreme courts. This is one area
where a president's footprint can linger will beyond the end of
their term, not to mention their life.
Consider this: although Richard Nixon resigned from office a disgraced
president, his last appointment to the bench, William Rehnquist,
has been on the high court for over 30 years. Also consider the
fact that the only president in recent history not to make an appointment
to the Supreme Court was Jimmy Carter.
Until George W. Bush that is.
While our country has suffered through what history will surely
rate as one of the most corrupt and dishonest administrations, Bush
has not had the opportunity to appoint someone to the nation's highest
court. For whatever reason, perhaps a guilty conscience from Bush
v. Gore, none of the current justices has decided to hang up the
robe. According to court watchers, the three most likely candidates
to retire are Rehnquist, Sandra Day O'Connor and John Paul Stevens.
While we have dodged the bullet so far, given no one has retired
during this administration, we know what we could be in store for
with a Bush appointment.
First of all, Bush has said he would like to appoint someone in
the mold of Justice Antonin Scalia. This is the same justice who
refused to recuse himself from the Dick Cheney energy task force
case even though he accompanied the veep on a duck hunting trip
to Louisiana prior to hearing that case.
Beyond that, one of the best indications of who Bush would like
to see on the Supreme Court can be seen through appellate court
appointments. Four come to mind.
At the top of the list is Charles Pickering. The avowed racist
is currently serving on the Fifth Appellate Court only after Bush
gave him a recess appointment. Pickering is right in line with the
Bush administration's philosophy of voter disenfranchisement. As
a federal judge Pickering criticized, among other American values,
the "one-person, one-vote"principle.
The next one would be Eleventh Appellate Court nominee and former
Alabama Attorney General William Pryor, who like Pickering has received
a recess appointment. Aside from the usual list of rights he would
like to see squashed, Pryor has a proclivity for denying rights
to gays and lesbians. Pryor was in favor of upholding Texas' so-called
"Homosexual Conduct Law"that the court recently reversed.
Then there's Miguel Estrada whose nomination was tied up sufficiently
by senate Democrats such that Estrada withdrew his name. Described
as Bush's stealth nominee, Estrada refused to answer several routine
questions from senators regarding his judicial philosophy.
This stonewalling was part of his unsuccessful attempt to mask
whatever his true agenda was. It is not too hard to guess what he
was hiding. Can you imagine going to a job interview and refusing
to answer the interviewer's questions? Apparently Estrada, like
much of the Bush administration, thought he could dispense with
Perhaps the most egregious is Janice Rogers Brown. The California
jurist, who has been described as to the right of Clarence Thomas
and Scalia, has a long and storied record of working to deny rights
to various minorities and an open hostility to environmental issues.
Notwithstanding her extreme right-wing agenda, when Rogers Brown
was nominated to her current position on the California Supreme
Court by Republican Governor Pete Wilson, she was found unqualified
by the state bar evaluation committee. With a little intestinal
fortitude, senate Democrats will succeed with their filibuster on
While it can be argued that some Republican presidential appointments
to the court can become surprisingly enlightened - Earl Warren and
George H.W. Bush's appointment of David Souter come to mind - there
is one big difference: they were appointed by Republicans, not a
We need to keep in mind who we want making these crucial appointments
in the next four years – appointments that will far outlive either
a second Bush administration or Kerry's first.
Visit Dan Gougherty's blog at www.ltobs.blogspot.com