Friday, July 01, 2005

Losing O'Connor

Sandra Day O'Connor's just-announced retirement from the Supreme Court gives George W. Bush a dangerous opening. For most of this year, the common belief was that William Rehnquist would be the first justice in 11 years to step down. Having Bush replace Rehnquist could have done little damage -- it's hard to imagine he could have found anyone more likely to vote the wrong way on virtually every case.
But O'Connor is a different story. She has been an important swing vote on the court, and has kept its decisions moderate on any number of issues, including reproductive freedom of choice. To lose her to a right-wing ideologue, as Bush will surely attempt, could bring about a generation of destructive decisions from the court.
The best we can hope for is that Bush will make the kind of choice his father did with David Souter or that Eisenhower did with Earl Warren -- a good Republican whose instincts for justice outweigh his political affiliations. At worst, we'll get someone like Papa Bush's other appointment, the horrendous and unqualified Clarence Thomas.
Either way, right now Bush has the power to make the most dangerous decision of his presidency.