/* Am I A Pundit Now?: Filling the Rehnquist 'Slot'

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Filling the Rehnquist 'Slot'

Yesterday, President Bush announced that Judge Roberts would be nominated for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court now that William Rehnquist has died.

John Roberts, former clerk to Rehnquist, will be a pall bearer at the funeral.

This spares us all from a third confirmation hearing, and the Left seems relieved that neither Scalia nor Thomas will be nominated for Chief Justice. We are likely to see opposition to Robert's nomination begin to wilt.

The Left also thinks that Roberts is now filling the Rehnquist 'slot' rather than the O'Connor slot, and so we can now expect Democrats to demand a squishy nominee to replace Sandra Day, to preserve the 'delicate balance' of the Court.

There are no 'slots', and there is no 'balance' that needs to be maintained--the President simply has the obligation to fill an empty seat on the bench, with whoever is qualified to interpret the Constitution. He is not charged with finding a carbon copy of each Justice to be replaced, nor is he charged with pleasing his political opponents.

Thus, it would be a mistake for the President to announce a nominee until Roberts is safely on the bench. If Bush moves too soon, he allows the Democrats to compare and contrast the two for 'proper balance'--as if that should be the President's main concern in choosing a justice. Putting Roberts on the bench allows the President to state that the first seat open, vacated by Sandra Day O'Connor, has now been filled. He is then freer to nominate someone demonstrably to the right of Roberts is he so chooses, as is his right. Announcing another nominee before then just muddies the issue.

Postscript:Look for the Democrats to stretch out the Roberts nomination as long as possible, and then to demand that Bush announce a nominee. They will have more power to try and nuke someone they don't like if they can compare her to Roberts. I am betting Bush will pick a woman, not because he happens to think that should be the prime qualification, but because he has many well-qualified and base-pleasing women he could nominate.

8:14 AM | | |