Like the Yankees in October or a Cubs mid-season meltdown, leftist hysteria over President Bush’s Supreme Court nomination was to be expected. Rarely – in baseball or politics – is there ever a “sure thing.”
But given that Judge John Roberts has already been linked to an abortion clinic bomber, we can be sure that the political war is only just beginning. Unfortunately for conservatives, that’s about all of which we can be certain. On the larger question of Judge Roberts’ long-term legal philosophy, the outlook is much more ambiguous. It is comparable to someone predicting the Red Sox’s stunning resurgence in last year’s championship series. So, why the uncertainty? It’s called the “Georgetown effect.”
The incessant debate over Roberts’ current legal views is almost irrelevant. We already know he is a strict constructionist/originalist – a jurist who will interpret the Constitution with restraint and original fidelity in mind. But that is beside the point. As Ann Coulter convincingly noted, David Souter was also considered a “conservative” judge. As a New Hampshire official, he argued against the repeal of a law that made abortion a crime, called affirmative action “affirmative discrimination” and supported the free exercise of religion in the public square, a practice he now regularly opposes.
Sadly, Souter was a victim of the Georgetown effect. He became more concerned with acceptance in the elitist, law school social circuit than strictly and faithfully applying Constitutional law. When he realized his conservative legal philosophy was no longer fashionable on the pages of The New York Times and the Harvard Law Review, he conveniently “evolved” on the bench. Souter succumbed to liberal legalism, aka the “living document” Constitutional school. He is now far removed from the old Justice Souter who once proclaimed that abortion is “the killing of unborn children.” This is the Georgetown effect in action, and it can prey on even the most solid judicial nominees. It is why conservatives are deathly afraid of John Roberts, despite his sound, strict constructionist legal background. Souter taught us a devastating lesson – beware the Georgetown effect.
Undoubtedly, Judge Roberts will initially find a philosophical home on the Scalia/Thomas/Rehnquist wing of the Court, but will he stay there? America not only needs a strict constructionist judge, but also a jurist with character and an unyielding devotion to principle. We need a justice who will endure Georgetown’s political pressures and tempting praises and who will not waver with the latest vagaries in progressive thought. President Bush found a judge with the proper ideological qualities, but only time will tell if Roberts is the complete package. In the meantime, conservatives will hold their collective breaths, knowing full well that the lives of literally millions of unborn children rest in the potentially capricious hands of one man.
There is also a larger issue at stake here. Federalism and the time-honored principle of states’ rights are now virtually dead. Instead of the states determining the meaning of the Constitution through the amendment process – as was intended by the Founding Fathers – we are now totally at the mercy of the Supreme Court. The people’s voice, as revealed through the state legislatures, has become meaningless, and federal judges are now the final arbiters of constitutionality. In this regard, conservatives may be fighting the wrong battle .Why should we be forced to depend on the whimsical opinions of lifetime tenured judges to decide such monumental legal issues? William Donohue, president of The Catholic League, has proposed a constitutional amendment that would require a unanimous vote on the Court in order for it to overturn any act of Congress. The specifics of his proposal may be debatable, but curbing the powers of the Court is the larger battle conservatives should be fighting.
On September 6th, an array of leftist special interest groups will descend upon Washington to protest the Judge Roberts nomination. Something is wrong with this scenario. Their hate and sheer rage will make it clear that the Supreme Court has amassed far too much power – power it was never meant to have. It is a sad day for democracy when any one judge is invested with enough power to elicit such a virulent political frenzy. Amid the vulgar shouts and screams, we will not see democracy in action, but rather a collapsing society spiraling down the treacherous road to political serfdom. We’re living in our Founding Fathers’ worst nightmare, and this we know is a “sure thing.”
-The writer is a junior majoring in political communication.