• Bush signals his inability to change with Alito nomination
Bush signals his inability to change with Alito nomination
The Toronto Star, Wednesday, Nov. 2
The nomination of Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court raises a lot of questions about the judge’s attitudes toward federalism, privacy and civil rights. But it has already answered one big question about President George Bush. Anyone wondering whether the almost endless setbacks and embarrassments the White House has suffered over the last year would cause Bush to fix his style of governing should realize that the answer is: No.
As a political candidate, Bush had an extremely useful ability to repeat the same few simple themes over and over. As president, he has been cramped by the same habit. The solution to almost every problem seems to be either to rely on a close personal associate or to pander to his right wing.
The need for a close and careful review of Alito’s record is all the more crucial because he will be replacing Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who has been the swing vote of moderation on so many issues.
Alito was the sole judge on his court who took the extreme position that all of Pennsylvania’s limitations on abortion were constitutional, including the outrageous requirement that a woman show that she had notified her spouse. Alito has favored an inflated standard of evidence for racial- and sex-discrimination cases that would make it very hard even to bring them to court, much less win. Dissenting in a 1996 gun control case, he declared that Washington could not regulate the sale of fully automatic machine guns.
This nomination is yet another occasion to bemoan lost opportunities. Bush could have signaled that he was prepared to move on to a more expansive presidency by nominating a qualified moderate who could have garnered a nearly unanimous Senate vote. He could have sent a signal that he understood his error with Harriet Miers had been in picking the wrong woman, and that the answer did not have to be the seventh white man on the court. But he didn’t, any more than he saw Sept. 11 as an opportunity to build a new, inclusive world order of civilized nations.
Anyone who imagines that the indictment of Lewis Libby and the legal troubles of Karl Rove will be a cue to bring fresh ideas to the White House should read the signs. With more than three years to go in this term, the bottom line is becoming inescapable. Bush does not want to change, and perhaps is not capable of changing.