Monday, May 19, 2003

Newsday reports this:

Well-informed court observers say that there could be two Supreme Court resignations next month, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, bringing the greatest upheaval on the court in 32 years.

Rehnquist's resignation is considered likely, though not certain, while O'Connor's is considered likely by some court insiders and less so by others.

The White House, however, is preparing for the possibility of two or three vacancies, because if Rehnquist is replaced by a sitting justice and O'Connor also goes, two seats but three positions will be open.

Yet another seat could open up if Justice John Paul Stevens, who is 83, retires, but that is considered unlikely.

Think things are going to get ugly? Consider this, and realize how ugly they could get:

While the speculation in Washington is that Justice Antonin Scalia would be elevated to chief justice, objections are being raised within the administration because of his age. Though Scalia is a very youthful 67, some feel a younger person should become chief justice to ensure long-term impact.

For some of the highly ideological conservatives who have, at least until now, held sway over President George W. Bush's court nominations, that person would be Justice Clarence Thomas, 54, who if anything has positioned himself to the right of Scalia. They say that despite his controversial background, the White House has not yet dismissed the idea.

I really think this could happen -- followed by a massive Right-Wing Conspiracy Message Discipline Special in which GOP apparatchiks use every print and broadcast outlet available to denounce everyone who says a discouraging word about Thomas as a racist (or, if nonwhite, as a dweller on the Democrats' "plantation").

Oh, and, of course, if Thomas is nominated, I'd like a dollar for every media reference to the choice as "bold."

The article lists possible nominees -- though I wonder if the Bushies are going to throw a curveball at us and nominate Viet Dinh for something. Dinh came to the U.S. as a refugee, which makes him the perfect human-interest story for the GOP. And he's ideologically perfect, too: He's a Federalist Society honcho who recently left the Justice Department, where he was, as AP notes, "a key author of laws increasing government enforcement and surveillance powers after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks." It's relatively easy for Democrats to find nonwhites who will denounce Clarence Thomas or Miguel Estrada. I don't think they could manage to fight off Dinh. (Dinh's really young, so maybe it's not his time yet, but choosing someone of his age would be "bold," too.)

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