With John Roberts about to be confirmed as Chief Justice, the focus turns to the next nominee. The Washington Times explains why this nomination constitutes a “legacy moment for Bush.”
As Senator McCain said last night, the seven Democrats in the “gang of 14” are loath to filibuster the next nominee. Nor are more than five of the 55 Republican members likely to break ranks. Thus, I believe that there is no one of the lists of potential nominees we are seeing who likely would not be confirmed, and only two or three who barring, a poor performance before the Judiciary Committee, would not be a clear favorite in the confirmation battle. It follows that, if we fail to replace Justice O’Connor with a strong conservative, it will almost surely be because President Bush didn’t nominate one, and not because of the Senate.
I am guardedly optimistic that the president will nominate a strong conservative. Three reasons support my optimism. First, Bush’s track record on judicial nominations is solid. Second, Bush has more cause than ever to accommodate his base. Polls show that his approval rating among Republicans has slipped from 91 percent to 77 percent (this translates, I think, into roughly a five percentage point decline in his overall approval rating). Moreover, conservatives are quite balky about the president’s plans to rebuild the Gulf Coast, so further erosion of base must be of concern.
Finally, the Roberts hearings should reinforce the view that that success doesn’t require ideological compromise. Rather, the president maximizes his chances by putting forth an extremely well-qualified nominee who has the firepower to defend himself or herself against persistent and obnoxious questioning. If the president does so, then gender, ethnicity, and moderate credentials don’t much matter (it does help, though, if the nominee is also physically attractive).
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