Wednesday, July 20, 2005


The Pick That Dare Not Speak Its Name...

The dark-humored joke going around conservative circles for weeks was that "Alberto Gonzales was Spanish for David Souter." That was short-hand for those on the right for -- in their view -- Bush following in his father's footsteps and picking a Supreme Court nominee with little of a judicial trail, but who would end up joining the liberal bloc on the Court.

Now that Bush has emerged with a mildly surprising choice of John G. Roberts -- not a woman, not minority -- but a rather affable, good-looking white guy in his 50s.

Now, ironically, it's Democrats who likely fear that "Roberts is Bush II-speak for Souter." By this, they mean exactly the opposite of what conservatives thought about Gonzales. Liberals fear that Roberts has the non-record of Souter (therefore nigh-impossible to attack), but will end up voting almost exactly like Scalia and Thomas.

Given the laudatory statements coming from the denizens of Red State --here ("Conservatives love Bush tonight. Make no mistake about it. Certain conservative leaders, if they were not men, would be offering to bear further children for GWB tonight. They love Roberts."), here (that Roberts' wife is a former VP of Feminists For Life is a fact I did not know) and here the liberals fear may be well-placed.

Finally, considering Joe Lieberman's relatively neutral comments on Roberts before the choice was announced, it is hard to see any member of the "Gang of 14" (who crafted the deal to ward off the "nuclear option") thinking Roberts meets the "extraordinary circumstance" criteria that would permit a Democratic filibuster.

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer may not find as many allies as he anticipates in his demand that "the burden is on the nominee" to prove that he is "worthy" of confirmation. Barring any unforeseen information coming out, Roberts looks to be a pick that unites the right and divides the left. That has all the makings of a confirmation approaching 70 votes.

And so, from an unprecedented prime-time announcement, to choosing a credentialed, connected legal superstar, Bush proved Tuesday night that one should never underestimate the power of a White House to completely reshape the national conversation in an instant.

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