Saturday, July 02, 2005

Gonzales: Just too damn liberal?

The battle begins in earnest: As I've suggested before, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales might not be such a bad choice as the next Supreme Court justice -- at least given the alternatives, all of whom seem to stand well to his right. But, as the Times reports, the right-wing goons -- otherwise known as Bush's base, which claims credit for 2004 and is now looking for payback -- are out, knives in hand, to take him down.

For Gonzales, you see, just isn't conservative enough for them. Especially on abortion and affirmative action, he has shown moderation and restraint, defending race-based preferences and opposing parental-notification requirements for minors seeking abortions.

But is he a liberal? Hardly. Remember that this is the guy who, as White House counsel, argued that foreign detainees in the war on terror shouldn't be treated according to the Geneva Convention and who essentially signed off on torture.

But that doesn't stop the right, which is out to remake the Supreme Court according to its own brand of judicial activism. For however much conservatives may scream against what they see as liberal activism, the new activists are to be found on the right, and a shift too far to the right could very much mean the dismantling of the liberal state as we know it. Right-wing ideologues want that, of course, but I wonder if Americans realize just what that would mean...

In the meantime, I'll continue to push for Gonzales as the only even remotely sober candidate in the bunch. After all, as Slate put it recently, his judicial philosophy is characterized by "a restrained role for judges". Isn't that what real conservatives (as opposed to the radicals who call themselves conservatives) should want? And isn't that what liberals who are serious about the Constitution and who are willing to work for the common good should accept as the best Bush has to offer? I'm still hoping (against hope, perhaps) for a moderate-conservative nominee who would sail through the Senate, even if that would allow Bush to claim a quick victory in the wake of his collapsing approval ratings -- after all, it would be fun to see conservatives tear each other to pieces, fracturing the conservative movement and what passes these days for the Republican majority. But the future of the Supreme Court and its long-term impact on American life is far more important than short-term partisan politics, and for that reason Bush would do well to nominate his pragmatic and loyal attorney general over the radical ideologues of the right.

The right wants its theocratic revolution upheld, and even imposed, by the federal judiciary. It needs to be stopped -- and now -- lest America, arguably "the last, best hope on earth," become little more than an ideological experiment disconnected from its own roots in liberal political philosophy, with a constitutional soul polluted by shameless revisionism and extremist ideology.

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