Weekly BlogScan: Watching the Supremes
When I was in grade school, my friends and I barely knew the Supreme Court of the United States existed. That was a topic for high-school civics, or maybe eighth-grade—we were too interested in the Man from Uncle and the half-man from Vulcan to care who sat on the bench in the highest court of the land.
I suspect that's still true for grade-school kids. But I believe my own parents would have had equal difficulty in naming the Chief Justice of that pre-Brown v. Board of Education era. (Even now, you know the name Earl Warren—would you know who Fred Vinson was?) I doubt the same could be said of many sixth-graders' folks today. Not in an age when figurines of the SCOTUS justices are offered on eBay.
Earlier this month, Jeralyn Merritt of TalkLeft met with Mark Noonan of Blogs for Bush on MSNBC's Connected Coast to Coast to discuss the best choices for Justice Sandra Day O'Connors' replacement. (O'Connors had just announced her plans for retirement.) While they were polite on-screen, their comments on-line are a better reflection of the entrenched positions:
TalkLeft: "PFAW lists these as the rights that may be in jeopardy if a consensus candidate is not selected: Privacy Rights, Civil Rights and Discrimination, Church-State Separation, Environmental Protection, Workers' Rights and Consumer Protection, Campaign Finance Reform."
Blogs for Bush: "This, in the end, isn't about Roberts or Bush judicial nominations; it is about defending our system of government from leftwing attempts to destroy it."
These lines are scratched pretty deep in the sand. But why should the nomination of a Supreme Court Justice be a partisan issue at all? Joe Gandelman of The Moderate Voice clarifies the motivations of both left- and right-leaning commenters with a look at the recent nuanced Ten Commandments decision. Joe points out that the age and current makeup of the court potentially make President Bush "one of the most influential Presidents in history" as he replaces justices who retire (or expire).
A new majority, voting in the wake of several Supreme Court vacancies and new appointments, may see things a bit differently. That's why both the right and left are gearing up for a no-holds-barred political donnybrook in which it's not entirely unlikely that the "nuclear option" on judicial filibusters comes back from the compromise grave.
It's not enough, however, to have an overt battle over a nominee—some bloggers insist on conspiracy, as well. David Sirota writes in his Sirotablog that Karl Rove has sinister plans for a Supreme Court "victory."
Karl Rove will have Bush put up one crazy, wild-eyed conservative lunatic in the John Ashcroft mold, and one hard-right winger who seems "moderate" compared to the crazy... the lunatic goes down to defeat, but the hard-right winger gets through, and Bush replaces the lunatic with another hard-right winger as a "compromise."
Writing at The Volokh Conspiracy (an affiliate of Law.com), Jim Lindgren asks an important question: "Will the Lobbies Really Oppose Roberts?" Whatever lobbyists may do, the Senators will take actions on their own responsibility.
As for the Senate committee hearings, it is too early to tell, but the Senators' more cautious attack on Roberts is so far shaping up to be three-fold: (1) attack the refusal to release additional internal Roberts memos from later presidential administrations (as they did with Estrada), (2) attack Roberts' refusal to answer most questions about past Supreme Court cases, and (3) assert that (or at least question whether) Roberts is "outside the mainstream" or "outside the conservative mainstream" on important issues.
Should bloggers care? I mean, aside from whatever level of focus you have on Washington, D.C., should you worry about who is confirmed to the court? According to digg, you should; the blog cites Steve Jobs' vow to take his suit against Apple "insider" blogs to the Supreme Court—a court that currently is willing to decide against a strict application of physical property rights. Perhaps we should be less worried about Roe v. Wade, and a lot more concerned with Kelo v. City of New London!
Once-occult processes of government have been opened to scrutiny and the pressure exerted by the Bandar-Log of polls, blogs, editorials, and other popular commentary. The end result, at least as far as the Supreme Court is concerned, is yet to be determined. But we are certainly (as in the Chinese curse) living in interesting times.
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