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A Bush Win Would Complete the Hat Trick White House, Legislative and Judicial

August 13, 2004
by Dan Gougherty

During 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 such frivolity.

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 this nomination.

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 neo-conservative.

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

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