The presidential election of 2004 was a threshold election for many reasons, not the least of which was the Supreme Court. Now, with the resignation of Chief Justice William Rehnquist looming and the resignation of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in hand, President Bush is about to have the opportunity to define the future direction of the Supreme Court, possibly for decades to come.
Regardless what nomination strategy President Bush chooses, he will have to work hard to please his core conservative base. But should Rehnquist resign, Bush may well have available a very interesting option.
Consider this – with Rehnquist leaving the court, Bush could nominate Justice Antonin Scalia to be the new chief justice. Liberal Democrats, many of whom are still in shock and disbelief that we don’t have a President Kerry in the White House, will come unglued if Bush nominates Scalia to be chief justice. The thought of a “Scalia Court” can be counted on to prompt Ted Kennedy into yet another vein-popping, hysterical tirade against the archenemy Bush, the guy both Kennedy and Kerry believed was too dumb to win re-election in 2004.
Promoting Scalia to be chief justice would allow Bush to move three pieces on the Supreme Court chess board. If Scalia were to step up, Bush would still have two appointments to be made – one to replace Scalia, the other to replace O’Connor.
Bush could easily fill one of these appointments with an archconservative, a person sure to win the plaudits of the most conservative among his core base. Then he could give the other nomination to his good friend, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Bush would then have nominated the first Hispanic attorney general and the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice, accomplished by promoting the same person a second time, advancing Attorney General Gonzales to be Supreme Court Justice Gonzales.
The Hispanic community throughout America will celebrate this promotion, with the political benefit rebounding to Bush and the Republican Party.
With the general anticipation that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic Party nominee for the presidency in 2008, what better strategy could the Republicans have than to cut into the lock the Democrats have traditionally had on minority voters.
Granted, Hillary might be resilient to scandals. After all, she has had almost every imaginable scandal tossed her way and she has perfected playing the role of victim for maximum advantage. What Hillary and the Democrats might not be able to sustain in 2008 is a massive intrusion by Republicans into the votes the Democrats are counting on receiving from minorities, including Hispanic voters. Hillary might win on the scandals, but she can still be beaten on fundamental politics.
Entering the Supreme Court battle to come, Democrats themselves can be expected to go nuclear, one way or another. Imagine the rage of the extreme liberal Democrats at losing not only the presidency in 2004, but also at the prospect of getting a Scalia Court packed with a new strong conservative associate justice yet to be named and a Justice Gonzales in the mix.
If President Bush plays his cards right, he might not only get the court to take a sharp turn to the right, he might position the Republican Party to have an excellent shot at keeping the presidency in 2008, even if the Democrats do decide to take a roll of the dice on Hillary.
Hillary never served in Vietnam. But, who knows? After suffering through Kerry defeat in 2004, the Democrats might well look forward to an election that didn’t turn on a 30-year-old war that still divides us today. Unless, of course, the Democrats decide to go the Adalai Stevenson route and nominate Kerry for yet another try in 2008.