Monday, October 25, 2004

The Supremes (sans Diana Ross)

It will be interesting to see what impact the announcement of Chief Justice William Rehnquist's thyroid cancer diagnosis will have on the final days of the Presidential race. With Rehnquist's illness (as well as his age; he's 80), it's a near-certainty now that the incoming President will nominate the next Chief Justice of the United States. You can be sure that the Republicans will make this an issue if they can.

Funny thing about Supreme Court appointments, though — they don't always work out as the nominating President might hope. The current Court's longest-standing liberal Justice, John Paul Stevens, was appointed by Republican Gerald Ford. Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy, both Reagan appointees, and David Souter, appointed by the first President Bush, have proved to be more moderate/centrist, I'm sure, than their conservative nominators might have hoped. (In fairness, though, the Reaganistas nominated Kennedy more or less as an offset to arch-conservative Antonin Scalia, the previous Justice appointed by Reagan. In the same way, Bush 41 appointed right-winger Clarence Thomas to replace the late Thurgood Marshall in part because Souter turned out to be far less a conservative idealogue than many GOP hardliners wanted.)

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