Do you believe that either the United States Congress or the states can regulate the sexual behavior of individuals within the privacy of their home?
Judge John G. Roberts Jr. will "strictly apply the Constitution and laws, not legislate from the bench," President Bush said Tuesday night in announcing his Supreme Court nominee. "Strict constructionist" was on the lips of many Bush-Roberts supporters confident that Roberts is no "judicial activist."
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is a likable fellow and a competent lawyer. He rose from humble Mexican-American origins to join the U.S. Air Force and graduate from Harvard Law School. He has won the trust and friendship of George W. Bush. He wrote 20-some forgettable judicial opinions while on the Texas Supreme Court. And since 2001, he has sat in sphinx-like silence through many high-level meetings on the biggest legal issues facing the nation.
OK, OK, maybe I’m getting a bit carried away. My dream of a Militant Moderate Caucus (even a third party!) shoving the hard-right Republican and hard-left Democratic leaders to the margins, fixing Social Security and health care, and listening to mainstream voters instead of special-interest screamers remains forlorn. But the bipartisan, May 23 deal among 14 mostly moderate senators to bring some sanity to the judicial confirmation process has promise.
Justice William Brennan Jr. was in an animated mood, even for him. It was May 27, 1987, toward the end of the Supreme Court’s first term since Justice William Rehnquist’s 1986 promotion to chief justice. The Senate vote had been 65-33, amid bitter attacks — even charges of perjury — from liberal groups.
California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown is the most interesting of President Bush’s judicial nominees blocked by Democratic filibusters. So a look at her speeches and judicial opinions may shed light on what the fuss is all about.
Consultation. Conciliation. Compromise. Such concepts are in eclipse these days in Washington. Everyone is getting ready for the mother of all confirmation battles. As soon as one of the nine aging Supreme Court justices retires, sports fans expect, President Bush will pick a clone of Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas. Liberal groups will "Bork" the nominee as a retrograde, right-wing judicial activist bent on forcing women into back-alley abortions, pushing gays back into the closet, resegregating higher education, imposing a fundamentalist Christian theocracy, and promiscuously paving the habitats of endangered species. And then there will be all of the oppo dirt-digging for ethical lapses, libidinous excesses, and other embarrassments.
Veteran Washington superlobbyist Tom Korologos, now ambassador to Belgium, had some pithy words of wisdom for past Republican Supreme Court nominees whom he helped shepherd through the process: "Your role is that of a bridegroom at a wedding. Stay out of the way, be on time, and keep your mouth shut."
President Bush is keeping confidential his short list of possible nominees should one or more Supreme Court justices retire. But in conversations with former White House officials and others, the same names keep coming up. Brief biographies of 10 of them follow, very roughly in order of their prominence in the Supreme Court succession speculation game.
A lot of liberals, and a lot of conservatives, think that President Bush is speaking in code when he says he would nominate to the Supreme Court "strict constructionists" who would "faithfully interpret the law, not legislate from the bench."