Speculation On The Supreme Court: Maybe It’s Not Rehnquist Stepping Down

Would this be a blockbuster or what? From Bill Kristol at the Weekly Standard:

“Warning: THIS IS SPECULATION. Obviously, I think it’s somewhat well-informed speculation, or else I wouldn’t be writing this. But it is speculation.

There will be a Supreme Court resignation within the next week. But it will be Justice O’Connor, not Chief Justice Rehnquist. There are several tea-leaf-like suggestions that O’Connor may be stepping down, including the fact that she has apparently arranged to spend much more time in Arizona beginning this fall. There are also recent intimations that Chief Justice Rehnquist may not resign. This would be consistent with Justice O’Connor having confided her plan to step down to the chief a while ago. Rehnquist probably believes that it wouldn’t be good for the Court to have two resignations at once, so he would presumably stay on for as long as his health permits, and/or until after Justice O’Connor’s replacement is confirmed.”

Kristol then takes the scenario up to the next level:

“President Bush will appoint Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to replace O’Connor. Bush certainly wants to put Gonzales on the Supreme Court. Presidents usually find a way to do what they want to do.”

If O’Connor were to resign, that would obviously be great news because it would give Bush the opportunity to appoint at least two conservative justices to the SCOTUS.

However, whether Bush likes him or not, it would be a huge mistake to nominate someone like Alberto Gonzales who’s so moderate that a Gonzales for O’Connor swap would be considered by the base to be a wash.

Not only would a Gonzales appointment so soon after the “deal of 7” debacle unleash a flood of conservative anger at Bush unlike anything he has seen in his presidency, it could create some very sticky situations for Republican Senators running in 2006 because it’s entirely possible a Gonzales nomination could be defeated. The Democrats would likely vote en masse against Gonzales and Republicans would likely face a huge lobbying effort by conservative groups opposed to a Gonzales nomination.

Just imagine another brouhaha that the base perceives themselves to be on the losing side of after being sold out by the Senate — again — and by the President himself. That could be the sort of moment for Bush that breaking the, “Read my lips, no new taxes” pledge was for his father — a complete political disaster that has the potential to permanently damage Bush with the base — and turn a 2-3 seat gain in the Senate in 2006 into a 2-3 seat loss. The base is already generally unhappy with the Republican Party over the deficits, illegal immigration, and judges as it is — Gonzales could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Bush made a promise to appoint conservative judges to the SCOTUS both in his 2000 & 2004 campaigns and he better stick to it even though it means his buddy Alberto Gonzales won’t get appointed. That applies, even if it turns out Kristol’s hunch about O’Connor is completely off the mark.

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