George W. Bush joked yesterday about the possibility of naming Alberto Gonzales to the Supreme Court, but his base is not amused. Based on his tenure on the Texas Supreme Court, members of the Christian right believe Gonzales is insufficiently opposed to abortion rights and are alarmed -- all over again -- that he might be on Bush's Supreme Court shortlist.
As William Kristol writes in the Weekly Standard, nominating the "mediocre" Gonzales would be a way for Bush to lose conservatives who are already going soft on the president anyway. Kristol says a Gonzales nomination "would utterly demoralize" many of Bush's supporters, "who are sticking with him and his party, through troubles in Iraq and screw-ups with Katrina, precisely because they want a few important things out of a Bush presidency -- and one of these is a more conservative court."
Kristol says that Bush missed a chance. If the president had nominated a hard-core conservative to replace Chief Justice William Rehnquist -- we'd submit that he did, but let's go with Kristol for a moment here -- Democrats couldn't have complained because such a nomination wouldn't have altered the balance of power on the court. But now, Kristol says, Bush needs a new nominee to replace Sandra Day O'Connor, and he'll be under pressure to nominate someone who shares her more moderate views.
To which we say: That pressure doesn't seem to have accomplished much the last time around.
Be that as it may, many of the president's supporters say they'd be happy if Bush could find another John Roberts to name as O'Connor's replacement, especially if the second John Roberts goes by the name Jane or Juan. As the Washington Post notes this morning, Sens. Arlen Specter, Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn have all urged Bush to consider nominating a woman or a member of a minority. Specter, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he believes in a two-woman minimum on the Supreme Court. Cornyn, the Texas senator who is sometimes mentioned as a short-lister himself, tells the New York Times: "I don't know whether John Roberts has a twin, perhaps a sister or, uh, someone with a Hispanic last name."