Taking Consultation to Extremes

Ideas have consequences, as we often say, and I’m afraid that the idea that President Bush should consult with the Senate–or with anyone at all–about his Supreme Court nominations could get out of hand. I assume that Bush’s meetings with key Senators were intended to be cosmetic, and were considered harmless. I’m not so sure that will turn out to be true. Everyone seems to be getting into the free advice business, even Laura Bush, who publicly said that she thought her husband should appoint a woman.
This morning’s USA Today, delivered to my hotel room here in Washington, contains evidence that the whole consultation thing may have gotten out of hand, in a report on a USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll that is subtitled: “Preferred in poll: A Hispanic woman who wouldn’t alter Roe v. Wade.”
A HIspanic woman may be just about the only category of human being President Bush can’t come up with. The article quotes a political scientist who says, “The pressure we see going on here I haven’t seen before.” I agree. But President Bush opened himself up to the pressure by encouraging input and, to some degree, carrying out his deliberations in public.
The poll results contain something for everyone. An astonishing 86% of respondents said that the Senate Democrats are “likely to try to block Bush’s nominee for inappropriate political reasons.” On the other hand, nearly two-thirds said that Bush is “likely to appoint someone who would let religious beliefs inappropriately influence legal decisions.” (Maybe we should amend the headline to say that Americans want Buth to appoint a female Hispanic atheist, narrowing the pool still further.) These numbers are consistent with what seems to be an emerging trend: the Democrats’ vicious and unprincipled attacks on the President do, indeed, have an impact; but they hurt the Democrats even more than the Republicans.
The public, not surprisingly, has little appetite for a battle in the Senate. While 46% said that Bush should nominate the best person for the job even if he or she is opposed by nearly all Senate Democrats–as will presumably be the case with any nominee–51% said that in that event, Bush should find someone else.
The poll’s other significant finding is that the Supreme Court has fallen into disrepute, with Americans diapproving of the Court by 48% to 42%. This is probably the result, in part, of high-profile decisions on religious freedom and property rights, but more broadly, the Court’s assumption of legislative powers has inevitably led to its politicization, which, in turn, has foreseeably led to its decline in public esteem.


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