Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is rolling the political dice with his party's image at stake by coming out in opposition to the appointment of Judge John Roberts to the Supreme Court of the United States. Ted Kennedy and John Kerry are also spinning the wheel.
If many Democrats join Reid, Kennedy and Kerry in opposing this likable and well-qualified candidate, and it's expected that many will, Republicans will be able to make the case that any nominee put forth by President Bush would be opposed. It doesn't matter who the president nominates next; even if it's a solid originalist like the highly feared Janice Rogers Brown or Priscilla Owen.
With everyone on both sides of the aisle clamoring for Bush to replace a woman with a woman, Brown and Owen are perfect choices to fill the spot - while at the same time providing an additional bonus for conservatives looking for the president to tilt the Supreme Court (probably drastically) to the right.
Many political scientists and court observers believe Roberts will have no noticeable impact on the bench; a conservative replacing a conservative. In fact, if he intends to uphold Roe v. Wade then the elevation of Roberts will be a move to the left, hardly something we expected from the man who promised to nominate someone in the mold of Clarence Thomas or Antonin Scalia.
O'Connor's replacement is crucial because she has served as the unpredictable swing vote, and often voted with the liberals on key issues like abortion, affirmative action, religion and the death penalty.
With every branch of the federal government in Republican hands, Democrats don't have a lot of negotiating room, and would score a major victory if an anti-Roe judge was replaced with one who would uphold the precedent. Such a case would mean three liberal justices would have to resign for there to even be a slight chance for a Roe v. Wade reversal in the near future.
Democrats claim they're "sending a message" to the president by giving Roberts a hard time, saying that this tough battle only means a tougher one for a more controversial choice that conservatives are desperately pleading for.
The Democratic Party that for five years lambasted the president with harsh rhetoric on every issue is now demanding (in the nicest way possible) that Bush negotiate with them on his constitutional authority to nominate Supreme Court justices.
Harry Reid would just like to delay the next pick for as long as possible, so a few more cases could be heard with one less conservative on the bench to vote. "I don't think he needs to do it in the next couple of weeks, that's for sure," he said.
Or better yet, Mr. President, how about holding off your pick for another couple of years, until, you know, when a new president is elected! Unhappy with Roberts, Reid believes it would be a "poke in the eye with a sharp stick" if Bush nominated any of the 10 appeals court nominees whom Democrats blocked in recent years, including the recently confirmed federal appellate judges -- here we go again -- Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown.
Is there anyone whom Reid would support? Is there anyone who wouldn't be considered a "poke in the eye with a sharp stick?" What exactly have the Democrats done recently that would encourage Bush to give them a say in his decision?
Some Democrats have already expressed their support for Roberts, meaning confirmation is virtually guaranteed. The Judiciary Committee's senior Democrat, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, is a "go" on Roberts despite the disappointed Ralph Neas of the People for the American Way. Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Max Baucus of Montana look to vote "yes" in addition to many other Democrats.
But I won't be surprised when Chuck Schumer, Barbara Boxer, Dick Durbin and the rest of the hard-left in the Senate vote "no" on Roberts, but it will dilute whatever legitimacy the Democrats have in the future when they take the same action against a true conservative who's just around the corner.
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