Helen Dewar and Mike Allen report that "several lawyers and former administration officials who have discussed the issue with West Wing aides" think Bush is going to nominate a "strong ideological conservative" to replace Rehnquist.
The three prong GOP strategy to force through the nomination:
- Distort the Constitution. Bill Frist has already begun the task, telling the Federalist Society that the filibuster of judicial nominees is a "formula for tyranny by the minority." They will accuse Democrats of betraying the rule of law, of undermining the constitutional powers of the executive branch, and of risking the integrity of the Supreme Court. All cases of clear projection.
- Forbid the Filibuster. After laying the groundwork by distorting the Constitution, the GOP will get Dick Cheney to declare filibusters of Court nominees unconstitutional. It is a lawless grab for power, a violation of the principle of separation of powers, and an affront to Senate prerogatives.
- Claim their "Due." The GOP will sell their nominee to a disinterested public and a cowed press by claiming an electoral mandate and by arguing that a conservative replacement is necessary for ideological balance on the Court. "What they plan to say is that they would not be fundamentally changing the makeup of the court" by replacing Rehnquist with another hardline conservative. The GOP is impervious to claims of hypocrisy, otherwise one could accuse them of betraying the idea of a "qualified judiciary."
Update 12/14/04 9:57 AM EST: Via Salon, I see Hugh Hewitt's reaction: "Bill Frist's finger is on the [nuclear] button. Push it, Senator." Very Goldwateresque, Mr. Hewitt.