Well, after an extended campaign of indirection, George W. Bush tonight named D.C. Court of Appeals Judge John Roberts as his nominee to replace Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court.It’s an interesting choice, politically and philosophically. Roberts obviously doesn’t get any diversity points, particularly since he would replace one of the two women on the Court. He’s not, by general assent, a crazy person; liberal legal analyst Jeffrey Rosen has categorized him as a “principled conservative,” free of “Constitution-in-Exile” hubris. But Rosen was evaluating him as a replacement for Rehnquist, not O’Connor; it’s likely Roberts would move the Court to the Right.On abortion, Roberts’ record is unclear. Yes, as Deputy Solicitor General under Bush 41, he wrote a brief in an abortion case that in passing referenced the administration’s support for reversing Roe v. Wade. But that was his job as a lawyer representing his client, and is not a reliable indicator of his position as a Supreme Court Justice. Conservatives tonight seem happy with the appointment, but Democrats should let things sift for a while before taking a definitive position. Without question, the confirmation hearings could produce some questions and answers that might either discomfit the Cultural Right or create legitimate concerns for everybody else.
TDS Strategy Memos
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By Ed Kilgore
I’m certainly old enough to remember lots of these pre-election “agenda” documents, and couldn’t help but mock the latest one at New York:
In Thomas Pynchon’s 1965 cult novel The Crying of Lot 49, a character who has taken too much LSD decides that if everyone on earth repeats the marketing phrase “rich, chocolatey goodness,” it will represent the voice of God. With or without drugs, a lot of people in politics have a similar delusion that getting candidates to make the same noises like chirping cicadas will produce electoral victories. It’s a particularly strong belief among congressional Republicans, who share the dubious conviction that Newt Gingrich’s “Contract With America” is what flipped control of Congress in 1994.
With the assistance of Gingrich and former Donald Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, the House Republican Conference has released a new “agenda” document, entitled “Commitment to America.” The document, clearly designed for online consumption, has lots of bells and whistles and factoids about the hellish reign of Joe Biden and his “Democrat” Party. What it doesn’t have is a whole lot of specificity, unlike the unfortunate “agenda” that Republican Senate Campaign Committee chairman Rick Scott released earlier this year to the near-universal horror of his colleagues, who don’t want to be identified with the proposed sunsetting of Social Security and Medicare.
The relatively anodyne character of Kevin McCarthy’s pet project doesn’t mean it is entirely useless. Candidates mouthing the approved pieties will presumably not be expressing their pithy views on Jewish space lasers or repeating QAnon slogans.
Still, it’s hard to take seriously an agenda for the nation that does not mention climate change, Russia, or extremist threats to democracy — or one that suggests the sole cure for inflation is to cut “wasteful government spending” without explaining what that means (in the indictment of Democrats that accompanies the agenda, there is much criticism of direct stimulus payments, which Donald Trump preferred to virtually every other form of government spending).
Most interesting was how House Republicans handled a red-hot issue they dare not ignore completely, given the obsession it commands among a very big chunk of the GOP party base: abortion. You have to look pretty hard to find it, nestled as it is under the unlikely heading of “A Government That’s Accountable,” and the downright misleading subheading of “a plan to defend America’s rights under the Constitution.” And it simply says Republicans will “protect the lives of unborn children and their mothers.” So they checked off a box for anti-abortion activists in the manner least likely to draw curious or unfriendly attention to the extreme abortion views so many of them have expressed, which don’t poll well. Perhaps voters will be too mesmerized by the overall party message to notice. Repeat after me: rich, chocolatey goodness.