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Editorials July 21

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Asking for trouble If President Bush wanted to be a uniter instead of a divider for a change, there’s a way. He could nominate moderates for seats on the Supreme Court, and he could consult with members of the opposing party before making the nominations. It is neither unprecedented nor unconstitutional for presidents to do so. President Clinton consulted leading Republican senators before nominating Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. President Ford consulted leading Democratic senators before nominating John Paul Stevens. A way, yes, but is there a will? It doesn’t appear so. Clinton and Ford were mainstream presidents. Bush is not. All of his judicial nominees so far have been far-right ideologues like himself, all carefully vetted to make sure they share the president’s views, such as strong opposition to the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that established a woman’s right to abortion. Many of his Court of Appeals nominees have long histories of opposing Roe; not a single one has ever publicly supported a woman’s right to choose abortion. (Knowing that a majority of Americans support the right to an abortion, Bush’s Supreme Court nominees may try to fudge during their confirmation hearings, as Clarence Thomas did in 1991. Thomas, a nominee of the first President Bush, dismissed his previous opinions and insisted to senators that he still had an open mind on the right to abortion. Eight months later, he joined a dissent saying “We believe that Roe was wrongly decided, and that it can and should be overruled.” Reporters subsequently documented that the decision not to reveal Thomas’s true feelings was a calculated White House strategy.) So it’s likely that Democrats will find themselves forced to oppose another extremist judicial nominee, and with not a great chance of winning, though moderation has triumphed on occasion. Robert Bork was rejected by the Senate in 1987, and the open seat eventually went to Anthony Kennedy, a more restrained conservative. Slight hopes are better than none. Second-rate terrorist The Islamic terrorists who kill innocent people with their bombs at least have the good grace, some of them, to blow themselves up too. Our homegrown Christian terrorist, Eric Rudolph, not only didn’t choose to die for his beliefs, he copped a plea to a life sentence rather than risk a trial that might have gotten him the death penalty. A timid terrorist, he still wants to call himself a martyr. No soap. Martyrs are willing to walk the last mile. Rudolph found that facing death himself was a much harder proposition than making other people face it. He does have in common with the overseas terrorists, those who’ve been taken alive, an unrepentant spirit and a desire to blame God for his actions. Faith-based fanatics are a bad lot, whatever their faith.

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