Conciliation is not his game
It would be nice if President Bush nominated a moderate to succeed Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the United States Supreme Court, thus avoiding, or keeping to a minimum, more division in a country and a Congress that are already sharply divided. Nice but unlikely.
Bush’s predecessor, President Clinton, appointed a couple of competent moderates to the Supreme Court — in the process disappointing some of his more leftish supporters — but Clinton was more independent than Bush. The Religious Right that Bush caters to wants a hard-right, Christian-conservative sort of judge, indifferent to other opinions and the nuances of the law. The extent of their extremism is shown by their early warnings to Bush not to nominate Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, a Texas friend of Bush who is considered “too moderate” by right-wingers. This is the same Alberto Gonzales who wrote legal memos that seemed to defend the use of torture on military prisoners.
Pro-torture is a position the right-wingers can accept. Their dissatisfaction with Gonzales apparently is over his criticism of another conservative judge and friend of Bush, Priscilla Owen, recently confirmed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, but still a possibility for nomination to the Supreme Court. Some think Bush will feel pressure to appoint a woman to replace a woman. As a Texas Supreme Court justice, Owen was known for ruling in favor of corporations like Halliburton and Enron that had contributed to her political campaigns. One of her opinions so outraged Gonzales, a fellow justice at the time, that he called it “an unconscionable act of judicial activism.” But that’s the same sort of decision that made George Bush president.
We’d grown accustomed to thinking of John Boozman as the Terri Schiavo of the Arkansas congressional delegation, apparently incapable of independent thought, responding only to programmed stimuli from Republican Party leaders — a pin-prick, perhaps, or a gong — casting reflexive votes as needed for Republican positions before slumping back into a stupor.
We were wrong. There is spontaneous activity in the Boozman brain, a spark of free will in the Boozman heart. The congressman broke with the Republican majority and voted with Democrats to restore $100 million that Republicans had cut from the budget of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Conservative ideologues have been trying to push public broadcasting, now middle-of-the-road politically, well over to the right or, failing that, to shut it down. Public broadcasting’s loyal viewers and listeners are resisting, and Boozman heard their cries for help (as did the other three members of the Arkansas House delegation). Alertness pays off.