Perhaps I'm not thinking this through clearly enough. So I'd be obliged to hear from others. But assuming that the rumors are true and that Chief Justice Rehnquist will announce his retirement tomorrow, this seems like a good thing for the Dems, not a bad thing.
Obviously that reasoning is premised on the assumption that Rehnquist will
retire at some point in the very near future regardless, certainly before the end of the president's tenure in office and in all likelihood before November 2006. So as long as President Bush will appoint Rehnquist's successor, better, it seems to me, that both nominations take place simultaneously.
Here's my reasoning.
To the extent that there was a logic to kicking the filibuster can down the road until a Supreme Court nomination came up, it was that Democrats would only stand to gain by more public attention, both to the extremism of a potential nominee and the rule-breaking of banning the filibuster using an obviously-phoney constitutional pretext. I think that's a decent theory of the situation. And for better or worse, it's the one they went with. So they might as well play it out.
Secondly, this battle will be played out as much in the nation's newspaper editorial board rooms and among the glitz commentators as anywhere else. The best argument that the Dems can make is that President Bush is in a loose sense trying to pack the Court, trying to push the Court decisively to the right by appointing an activist and an ideologue. It seems to me that that argument is much stronger if he's appointing two of nine than one of nine.
Perhaps another way to put this is that I think it would be much easier for President Bush to push through one hard-right nominee now and another next spring or next summer than it will be for him to push twice at once.
That's my initial take. Tell me what you think. I've set up a discussion thread here