President Bush gave the nation several clues Saturday about the person he will nominate for a seat on the Supreme Court, except for the most important one - a name.Consider this:
In his weekly radio address, Bush said his eventual nominee will be a "fair-minded individual who represents the mainstream of American law and American values."
His candidate also "will meet the highest standards of intellect, character and ability and will pledge to faithfully interpret the Constitution and laws of our country," the president said.
"Our nation deserves, and I will select, a Supreme Court justice that Americans can be proud of," he said, without revealing the name that many are anxious to hear....
Much of the retirement speculation - before and after O'Connor's surprise announcement - had focused on Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who is 80 and ailing with thyroid cancer.
Rehnquist tried to dampen expectations this week, issuing a statement in which he said his retirement is not imminent and that he would continue on the court "as long as my health permits."...
Bush said he and Senate leaders agreed on the need for a dignified confirmation process for his Supreme Court choice....
Before the 80-year-old Rehnquist, who is battling cancer, announced on Thursday that he was staying, there was speculation that Bush was waiting to make a double-nomination - a conservative and someone more moderate - that could defuse a contentious confirmation battle.Am I the only one who is thinking that there is a behind-the-scenes strategy going on about the Rehnquist retirement and its timing in connection with the O'Connor retirement?
"With two, he could have made an effort to please everybody,'' said Nan Aron with the liberal Alliance for Justice. "For this one vacancy, not only does it cause the White House to speed up the process, but there's that much more pressure being exerted on them by radical right groups. They're under much more pressure to placate their radical right base.''
With prospects for a double-vacancy off the table, Bush is faced only with replacing O'Connor, a moderate conservative who sided with liberal jurists in some of the Supreme Court's critical 5-4 decisions.
For a long time we've been expecting to hear of a Rehnquist retirement. Then instead, the O'Connor retirement is announced, unleashing an intense political debate in which the Democrats revealed what some of their demands and strategies would be. Then, the rumor of an imminent Rehnquist retirement heated up, and the Democratic demand firmed up: Bush can make good on his promises to appoint a strong conservative for the Rehnquist seat, but he needs to replace O'Connor with a moderate. With the Democrats cards thus exposed on the table, Rehnquist announces he's staying as long as he can.
Can this retirement-withholding be a deliberate attempt to help Bush resist the Democrats' demand (and also to resist his own urge to appoint his friend Alberto Gonzales)? If there is no second appointment, Bush feels more pressure and has more ability to replace O'Connor with a strong conservative.
Later, after the tough confirmation battle is played out and Bush has filled the O'Connor seat with a conservative, Rehnquist can retire. At this point, Bush can replace him as well with a strong conservative. The Democrats will not only be tired of fighting, they will have lost the basis for a "package deal" argument.
They will cry: You've already appointed a conservative, so now you should give us a moderate!
A moderate to replace Rehnquist, the towering figuring in the history of judicial conservatism? Never!