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Sunday, Aug. 3, 2008

Think You Know John McCain?

He promises to appoint ultraconservative Supreme Court justices

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“Elections have consequences,” likely Republican presidential nominee John McCain said last week. “One of the consequences is the president of the United States gets to name his or her nominees to the bench.”

That statement sent a shiver down the spines of many voters, not only because President George W. Bush has tipped the U.S. Supreme Court decidedly to the right, but because Justice John Paul Stevens just turned 88 on April 20.

Whoever is elected president will likely appoint Stevens’ successor—and perhaps other Supreme Court justices, since Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 75, Antonin Scalia is 72 and Anthony Kennedy will turn 72 this summer.

Candidate McCain is currently touting his long history of supporting conservative jurists on the bench in an effort to shore up his support from the right wing of the Republican Party. That faction distrusts McCain for his participation in the Gang of 14, a bipartisan effort that ultimately prevented Republican leaders from rewriting the Senate rules on filibusters, as well as his campaign finance law, which limits attack ads by corporations and unions in the weeks before an election. When Wisconsin Right to Life took their campaign-financing case to the Supreme Court and won a significant victory last summer, McCain called it “regrettable.”

On the stump, though, McCain has been saying that he would appoint conservative judges just like President Bush has. McCain has cited Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito as being his model justices, and he’s also praised Scalia, one of the most conservative justices ever to sit on the Supreme Court.

McCain has also promised to form a Justice Advisory Committee to help him make his judicial appointments, and has invited Solicitor General Ted Olson and Sen. Sam Brownback—two men on the far right of the Republican Party—to help him make his picks.

And he’s relying on scare tactics to drum up financial support for his campaign. In an e-mail to potential donors, McCain says, “I write to you today about one big issue in particular—the future of the U.S. Supreme Court.” He goes on to say that Democrats “will appoint those who make law with disregard for the will of the people.”

But if McCain gets his hands on the Supreme Court, expect the right to privacy to vanish and Roe v. Wade to be overturned. (Apparently McCain and his heiress wife, Cindy, only believe in privacy when it concerns Cindy’s tax returns; she said last week she would never make them public, even if she became the first lady, so we’ll never know the extent to which her $100 million fortune has affected her husband’s political career.)

A McCain-era court would no doubt expand the scope of presidential power, while the rights of corporations would increase and environmental protections would be rolled back. The government’s use of torture and warrantless wiretapping would most likely be upheld by the courts, even though former POW McCain made a feeble attempt to make waterboarding illegal before capitulating to Bush’s wishes last year.

McCain has a long history of supporting conservatives, even when they’re far out of the mainstream. In 1987, McCain vigorously supported the nomination of uber-conservative jurist Robert Bork, who was nominated by then-President Ronald Reagan for the nation’s highest court. In 1973, Bork proved his loyalty to Richard Nixon by firing Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox in an attempt to halt his investigation into Watergate.

But Bork wasn’t so loyal to McCain. The controversial judge-turned-author endorsed Republican Mitt Romney for president in December 2007, saying, “No other candidate will do more to advance the conservative judicial movement than Gov. Mitt Romney.”

What’s your take?

Write: editor@shepex.com