More than campaign promises, President Bush's first choice of a Supreme Court justice will reveal his core beliefs. He has repeatedly said he wants someone in the model of Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. These are men who have lived up to the noble objective of faithfully interpreting the Constitution instead of unfaithfully reading into it their personal judicial preferences.
An unnamed "senior administration official" told The New York Times, "The president is going to pick someone who is a true constructionist and who is correct in interpreting the law."
The left is already mobilizing to smear whoever is selected as an "extremist," an "out of the mainstream" nominee who will recreate "back alley abortions" and resurrect the Dark Ages.
Conservatives say they have learned from previous court battles and are not going to be fooled again. They will look beyond assurances that a nominee is "OK" and examine the substance of that nominee's record and philosophy. Nothing but delivery on the president's promise will satisfy them.
This is the big one, the main event. If the president does not nominate someone who measures up to his often-stated view of the court and the Constitution, he can forget about conservative support for anything he wants to do during the rest of his term. Even if he names someone who is eventually rejected by the Senate, he will get significant support from conservatives and momentum for nominating another conservative.
Perhaps it is a case of hope trumping experience, but my guess is that despite a pro-choice wife and mother, the president will be true to his convictions. My hope is that I am not exposed as a "false prophet."
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