November 6, 2005
Bush Missed Chance to Make History with Court Pick
-- President Bush likes to sprinkle a few tortured phrases in
Spanish whenever he's hosting Hispanics at the White House for
Cinco de Mayo. The gesture seems intended to show the nation's
largest minority that he appreciates their contributions to American
society and considers it a priority to make sure that doors closed
to previous generations of Hispanics are open to this one.
except the door to the Supreme Court.
months, President Bush has had three opportunities to make history
by nominating a Hispanic to the court, and yet he didn't do it.
good. It means that Bush hasn't lived up to the promise he made
when he was running for president in 2000. And it suggests that
he takes lightly an argument that deserves to be taken seriously:
that those from different backgrounds bring different perspectives
to their duties on the court.
think that's silly, insisting that Supreme Court justices approach
every case objectively and a nominee's race or ethnicity shouldn't
need to grow up. Consider the way in which Sandra Day O'Connor
or Clarence Thomas approach cases involving affirmative action.
Does anyone really think that their views, born in part from their
life experiences, are indistinguishable from those of David Souter
or Stephen Breyer?
saying that a nominee shouldn't be qualified, or (who are we kidding?)
in the case of a woman or a minority, shouldn't be ultra-qualified
with all the usual resume goodies and then some. I'm just saying
that there's nothing wrong with making it a priority to pick a
Hispanic, in the same way that much of Washington seems to agree
that it's totally appropriate to pick someone based on his or
her ideological bent.
an archaic barrier that deserves to be broken, and that there
are now, thankfully, good solid candidates who could break it.
Some of them are already on the Court of Appeals. There's Emilio
Garza of San Antonio, who sits on the 5th Circuit, and Yale Law
graduate Jose Cabranes of New York, who sits on the 2nd Circuit.
Either would be a great choice.
the Hispanic whose name is most often mentioned as a top prospect
for a seat on the Supreme Court is Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
And do you
remember why, according to conventional wisdom in Washington,
a Gonzales nomination was considered problematic?
told that Bush would end up in an ugly fight with members of his
own party over concerns that his nominee wasn't conservative enough.
So, Bush went on to nominate White House Counsel Harriet Miers
which provoked -- yep -- an ugly fight with members of the President's
own party over concerns that the nominee was, among other things,
not conservative enough.
others who said that picking Gonzales, because he had a hand in
drafting the rules governing the administration's treatment of
detainees in the war on terror, would only inflame Senate Democrats
and set the stage for a partisan war. So, naturally, when the
Miers nomination imploded, what would you expect Bush to do but
nominate Samuel A. Alito Jr., which inflamed Democrats and set
the stage for a partisan war.
does that make?
House was going to have a rough road no matter what. That's because,
in Washington, raising money is about raising hell. Being grumpy
brings more contributions to your organization, or more hits to
your Web site. It's nothing personal; it's just business.
the case, why wouldn't Bush do something really significant and
nominate Gonzales to the Supreme Court?
because the attorney general has communicated to the president
that he and his family have other plans in mind, like returning
to Texas -- just as Bush intends to do when the second term is
up. A lifetime appointment would change those plans.
recently told a Texas newspaper that he would consider running
for office in his home state, but that he didn't seem himself
serving in Washington. What does that leave to capture the imagination
of someone who has already run statewide and served as secretary
of state and on the Texas Supreme Court?
Gonzales seems ready to let someone else become the first Hispanic
on the Supreme Court. One day, he may try for what's behind door
No. 2: being elected the first Hispanic governor of Texas.
2005, The San Diego Union-Tribune