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Bush's Pick Of Gonzales Signals His Abandonment Of Conservatives

David T. Pyne | November 12 2004

Bush’s re-election has shifted the controversy to which of his cabinet officials are likely to remain in his second term. Attorney General John Ashcroft and Commerce Secretary Don Evans were the first to announce their departure. Ashcroft’s performance as Attorney General has been disappointing to traditional conservatives for his failure to advance any conservative issues whether for the pro-life cause or anything else while serving as the architect and enforcer of a new police state by his championing of the misnamed USA Patriot Act. According to Ashcroft’s staff, it is not true that he resigned for health reasons, but that he wanted to continue serving as Attorney General which presumably means that the President pressured him to resign because he was displeased with his performance as

a polarizing figure and wanted to replace him with Gonzales, a social liberal whose appointment has pleased most liberals in this country.
On November 5th four days before former US Attorney General John Ashcroft had even resigned, I penned the following prediction, "It seems unlikely that the President would risk the ire of tens of millions of Christian conservatives in selecting a pro-abortion Supreme Court nominee as his first pick to replace Rehnquist. More likely, he would wait to appoint Gonzales when a second vacancy occurs so that he does not shift the balance of the Supreme Court between the pro-life and pro-abortion justices further in favor of the pro-abortion justices. Under this scenario, Al Gonzales would be the President’s top pick to replace John Ashcroft as Attorney General, something that normally would also enrage conservatives, but who would likely be appeased by Bush’s support for a pro-life Supreme Court justice nominee and another pro-life Chief Justice nominee. Were Gonzales to be appointed by the President to succeed Ashcroft as Attorney General it is likely that he would continue to head up the Supreme Court justice search team and could pull "a Cheney" and recommend himself for the next Supreme Court vacancy." Five days later the appointment of Gonzales as Ashcroft’s replacement was announced.

As arguably the most polarizing conservative figure in the administration with the possible exception of Vice President Dick Cheney himself, the Democrats led by Senator John Kerry (D-MA) have been united in cheering his departure. Upon hearing that Gonzales was Bush’s pick to replace Ashcroft pro-partial birth abortion liberal Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) announced that he welcomed the appointment of "someone less polarizing" to the position. "We will have to review his record very carefully, but I can tell you already he's a better candidate than John Ashcroft."

Bush’s swift appointment of Alberto Gonzales as his new Attorney General shows that now that he has been re-elected, he will do whatever he likes. As a lame-duck president with little accountability to the voters who elected him, Bush no longer has to worry about losing the votes of his social conservative base. The just-announced appointment of Alberto Gonzales, who is pro-abortion, as the next US Attorney General comes as a slap in the face to the President’s social conservative supporters. The once pro-life Christian Coalition joined the far-left extremist Latino organization, La Raza, in praising Bush’s appointment of Gonzales as Attorney General. But the President of the American Life League criticized the choice stating, "President Bush appears to be doing all that he can to downright ignore pro-life principles…Within the short period of one week, the president has been silent on pro-abortion Sen. Arlen Specter's desire to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee, and has spoken out in favor of a judge with a pro-abortion track record to lead the Justice Department."

Many of the President’s socially conservative supporters without whose support he would not have been re-elected take his support for their most important issues as a given based on the President’s numerous vague statements in favor of their positions. But, Bush’s first-term record on issues of importance to social conservatives was not encouraging. For example, Bush was the first president to authorize federal funding for the morally repugnant practice of embryonic stem cell research in which stem cells are harvested from live human baby embryos resulting in their deaths. In addition, Bush was at first reluctant to take a stand in favor of the constitutional amendment to ban homosexual marriages. He continues to express his support for gay civic unions supporting a version of the constitutional amendment that would amend our hallowed, God-given Constitution to expressly allow for such gay civic unions.

Most ominous of all, he has not only refused to pledge to appoint only pro-life judges to the federal court, he has indicated that White House Council Al Gonzales—a pro-abortion social liberal—would be his top pick for one of the next Supreme Court justice vacancies. Gonzales would no doubt sail through the confirmation process in the Supreme Court championed by likely incoming Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, Arlen Specter (R-PA). But conservatives would be alienated and feel betrayed at having supported Bush only to see him further the pro-abortion agenda with his appointment of Gonzales. In the wake of disappointment in Christian conservative circles stemming from his appointment of Gonzales as Attorney General, one way Bush might try to appease them would be to nominate a pro-life judge to the vacancy created by Chief Justice Rehnquist’s imminent retirement due to his thyroid cancer while nominating either Anton Scalia or more likely Clarence Thomas as the next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Contrary to liberal newspapers which speak of a pro-life appointment upsetting the current "balance" between pro-life and pro-abortion justices on the Supreme Court, there are currently six justices on record supporting Roe v. Wade and three justices on record supporting overturning it. Thus, if Rehnquist as one of the three pro-life justices was to retire and a pro-life judge were appointed in his place, then the ratio of pro-life justices would remain the same.

The two other Supreme Court justices expected to retire this term are pro-abortion justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Justice John Paul Stevens at 84 the oldest member of the court. Were both of these justices to depart before the President’s term ended, Bush could appoint two additional pro-life justices to take their place and accordingly shift the balance of the court from 6-3 in favor of Roe v. Wade to 5-4 in favor of overturning it. The President’s legacy is at issue here. Were he to shift the balance of the court in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade and returning the decision whether to allow or prohibit abortions to the states, he would no doubt be revered by social conservatives as one of our greatest Presidents. If he were to fail to take advantage of this opportunity, he would be remembered by social conservatives as a disappointment who failed to champion the cause of life when he could have stepped forward and saved untold millions of future American unborn babies who are otherwise destined to die due to the easy accessibility of abortions in the country today, but whose mothers might think twice if they had to travel several hundred miles a couple of states away to end their unborn child’s life. Were Roe v. Wade to be overturned, the state laws would go back to what they were in 1973 when that constitutional travesty was decided and for a brief time even the liberal state of New York would once again brand abortion as a felony and increasing numbers of people might begin to view abortion for what it is—a crime. Already, there have been many signs and polls indicating a shift in favor of support for the pro-life cause, not the least of which are the exit polls from this last election in which 23% of voters indicated that their most important concern was moral values, more than any other single issue.

Shortly after taking office back in 2001, Bush tasked White House Council Al Gonzales with heading up the search team for potential Supreme Court nominees. This represented a snub to Ashcroft who is pro-life since it is the Attorney General, not the White House Counsel who is normally be assigned to this task. It was also a snub to Bush’s pro-life conservative base voters who were persuaded to forget this and other slights by the President during his first term against Christian conservatives in the greater interest of defeating pro-abortion Democrat presidential nominee, John Kerry. Appointing the pro-abortion Gonzales to head the Supreme Court search team instead of the pro-life Ashcroft at first appears to make no sense because people assume that Bush is committed to appointing pro-life justices to the Supreme Court. However, this is not necessarily the case as the President has always said, unlike John Kerry, he has no litmus test for appointing federal judicial nominees who agree with him on the issue of abortion clearly implying that he is completely open to naming pro-abortion federal judicial nominees including Supreme Court nominees like Gonzales who appears to be the prohibitive favorite.

The fact that Gonzales is heading up the search for potential Supreme Court nominees and that Gonzales is the only person who the President has named as a potential Supreme Court nominee makes the chances that Gonzales will pull "a Cheney" and recommend himself as one of Bush’s next two Supreme Court nominees very likely. At least his appointment as Attorney General means that he will most likely be out of the running for the first Supreme Court vacancy to replace the ailing Chief Justice Rehnquist whose replacement will likely come up for a vote when the 109th Congress reconvenes in January.


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