My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


The First Salvo?

I was just glancing at my Denver Post this morning, when this headline cought my attention: "Appeals Judge Has Appeal--To Some" When the first words out of the subtitle were "Michael McConnell", I assumed this piece, by Alicia Caldwell and John Aloysius Farrell, was going to be some sort of hit piece on somebody who has been widely mentioned for an appointment to the Supreme Court.

Was I right? Well, in a carefully crafted way--YES. This piece is silly. The opening seven paragraphs are unimportant enough, containing only this useful piece of information:

He was endorsed by hundreds of his fellow law school deans and professors, including prominent liberals like Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe and Yale's Akhil Amar.

The Senate, which was then in Democratic hands, approved his nomination by acclamation.

But then it digresses into an explication of his positions that could have easily come from the desk of Ralph Neas or Patricia Ireland. It tries very hard to establish that he will not be supported by the "militant conservatives" (I wonder who those would be?). Read:

And among some militant conservatives, "there is a suggestion he will be too independent," said Georgetown University law professor Mark Tushnet.

Indeed, an examination of McConnell's record leads some conservative activists to fear that he could be "the next David Souter," the Supreme Court justice who was appointed by the first President Bush but often joins more- liberal justices in their decisions.

"Judge McConnell is every bit as hostile to conservative legal principles as Souter turned out to be," wrote lawyer Andy Schlafly on the conservative website WorldNetDaily.

But then it goes on to list his positions: worked at the Reagan Justice Dept, is a member of the Federalist Society, and is a member of the Evangelical Free Church; has defended Bob Jones Univ and the Boy Scouts, and wrote that Roe v. Wade reasoning was "an embarrassment to those of us who take constitutional law seriously." He also supports the use of government money for church groups to institute federal aid programs, and supports school vouchers.

Sound like a onservative's conservative.

But Farrell and Caldwell just have to try to drive that wedge in there.

On other issues, McConnell's record proves to be equally nuanced. McConnell opposes a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning. He is against mandatory school prayer. He thinks the question of assisted suicide for terminally ill patients should be left to state "experimentation" and regulation.

McConnell spoke out against the impeachment of President Clinton, and criticized the reasoning behind the Supreme Court's decision in Bush vs. Gore, which made George W. Bush president in 2001. He has written, in the Harvard Law Review, that a public hospital may not forbid doctors to perform abortions on its premises.

When a group of gay and straight students at a Salt Lake City high school met administrative resistance when they tried to form an extracurricular club that would meet on school property, McConnell supported the students - just as he had defended Christian students in Washington state who wanted to meet after school in an empty classroom as a Bible study group.

In a 1992 law review article, he criticized a Supreme Court decision on government Christmas displays. He noted how the court struck down a display that featured only Christian symbols, but upheld another display in which a nativity scene was surrounded by secular symbols.

Now, I would grant that none of these decisions are a conservative's dream, BUT THEY ALL FIT WELL WITHIN THE STRUCTURES OF CONSTITUTIONAL LAW. If THIS is the evidence that conservatives might not support McConnell, then I would submit that he will be widely supported by everybody on the right.

And do these "controversial" positions add to his support from the Left?

The leaders of several prominent liberal groups - People for the American Way, the Alliance for Justice, Americans United for Separation of Church and State - say they will urge Senate Democrats to filibuster his nomination if McConnell is selected.

Ah. That alone should tell you that it's not the conservatives who are queasy about McConnell.

And it makes you wonder just why would Farrell and Caldwell write this piece?

Don't strain too hard.

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