Suzanne Fields

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, as we all know, but sometimes vigilantes have to invent bad guys to keep their franchise alive. You could ask some of our Democratic senators, or the ladies at the National Organization for Women.

 The Democrats in the Senate who must confirm a successor to Sandra Day O'Connor have wasted no time in signaling that they're spoiling for a fight, and no sooner had Justice O'Connor announced that she would retire when a successor was confirmed -- note that she hasn't retired yet, so technically there isn't yet a vacancy on the Supreme Court -- than NOW, in convention assembled in Nashville, announced that it would march on someone. Anyone.

 The only available place to march on in Nashville was the Tennessee state Capitol. "This is our time," Kim Gandy, the president of NOW, told her delegates. "This is our challenge." The delegates returned her admonition with a memorable chant reprised from the Vietnam War: "Hell no, we won't go." They were, presumably, not talking about not going back to Saigon, but about not going back to the alley where the abortionists once plied their grim trade.

 "We're going to march on every capitol in the country," she said.

 If we take her literally, someone should instruct Ms. Gandy on how the system works: The U.S. Supreme Court, not usually confused with the Tennessee Supreme Court, settles constitutional law, and the U.S. Supreme Court sits not in Nashville, or Topeka or Sacramento, but in Washington. A state capitol is about state law, and doesn't have anything to do with the U.S. Supreme Court, or Roe v. Wade, on which abortion rights are based. Roe is settled constitutional law. But you have to go with what you've got, and we might as well resign ourselves to a fierce and bloody fight over who succeeds Justice O'Connor. The Democrats obviously intend to oppose just about anyone whom President Bush is likely to nominate to the Supreme Court.

 Teddy Kennedy, whose harsh denunciation of Robert Bork in 1987 set the tone for modern confirmation hearings, predicts similar warfare this time if the president insists on choosing his own nominee. Mr. Kennedy, who may have been having a bad hair day, famously said of Robert Bork two decades ago that if confirmed to the court he would reopen the back-alley abortion mills and even restore racially segregated lunch counters. He's speaking in similarly harsh language now. (Is the Fourteenth Amendment safe?)

Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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