Austin, Texas 10/24/2004
If the federal government is a corporation with the President as its CEO (a flawed, but sometimes useful metaphor), the Supreme Court is its Board of Directors. They sit on the sidelines, out of the fray, but exert their collective will on the most important questions and disputes -- or at least the ones they consider to be most important. And, barring some sort of overt criminal behavior, they're there until retirement or death.
Indeed, from a political standpoint, they can be the gift that keeps on giving; the lagging indicator of worldview.
If you happen to be from my side of the political divide, that `lagging' served us well for several decades; the lagging culture was one that respected the public space. But now what happens if a second Bush administration ensues? Well, given their ideological outlook (for the President to say `no litmus test' would be rather like stating `no height requirement' when the field from which you draw is made up solely of NBA forwards) and the history of court appointments made by Republican administrations in the latter half of the twentieth century (Warren, Brennan, Stevens, Souter), you can be sure that whoever is nominated will be very well vetted, scoured for any presence of "incorrect" thinking.
Which brings up a different point -- and a confession. For years now, since the Nixon administration, the right has made much noise about wanting "strict constructionists" who won't "legislate from the bench". Ah, that elusive "strict interpretation of the law". The left has denied the charge. Well, here's the confession. They do. They all do. Left or right -- it doesn't matter.
And that's why it's so important. The Supreme Court justices appointed over the next presidential term (likely three, but only time will tell) are likely to be shaping American law at a time when my grandchildren are capable of following the story.
(By the way, I have one child, a son. He's not quite two and a half.)