Bush legacy now hinges on Supreme Court
By Doug Patton
President George W. Bush's second-term agenda of revamping outdated New Deal and Great Society programs like Social Security and Medicare is now in tatters, shredded by an electorate impatient with the war in Iraq, an ill-timed hurricane and a flatfooted response from government at all levels, and a gleeful national media eager to destroy what is left of the president's approval rating.
For more than four years, Bush has exhibited political courage on several fronts, taking stands in validation of the moral values most Americans still hold dear. His compassion and focus in the aftermath of 9/11 provided leadership to a wounded nation. Unfortunately, because many of his actions in office have been largely symbolic, his failures as a "conservative" president are becoming manifest daily.
Despite what the loonies on the Left will continue to tell us about "Bush's cuts," this president has yet to veto a single spending bill. He has failed utterly to protect our borders from a daily invasion by illegals. He has been unsuccessful in sidestepping the media to communicate his legitimate vision for the future of Iraq and continued American military involvement there.
And now, after an initial deer-in-the-headlights response to the complete failure of corrupt Louisiana politicians to cope with an inevitable meteorological crisis, he and the GOP-controlled Congress are throwing good money after bad at a rate that would make a drunken sailor sober up. Fifty billion dollars and counting. Yet, in the end, the failed infrastructures, both physical and political, that created the problems in the first place will still be broken.
Yet, Bush has an opportunity given to very few presidents. He may very well have the chance to remold the United States Supreme Court to an ideology opposite the one held by the court over the last fifty years.
The issues and their consequences are enormous: the reestablishment of law and order, the defense of innocent human life, the defense of traditional marriage and the protection of personal property rights are just a few of the matters that will occupy the Supreme Court in the coming years.
The recent death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist and the impending retirement of Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor have presented the president with his first two appointments to the High Court. Justice John Paul Stevens is now 85 years old, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has had health problems, thus leaving the president with a very rare opportunity to completely reshape the court.
Make no mistake: Bush will have to fight for this goal as he has never fought for anything during his presidency. It will require a complete depletion of whatever political capital he has left. The president will have to twist the arms of members of his own party and take his case to the American people as Ronald Reagan did so often and so well.
The U.S. Senate will confirm John Roberts as Chief Justice. After that, all bets are off. Whatever good will might remain between the White House and the upper body of the congress will be replaced by partisan infighting the likes of which this country has not seen since Vietnam.
Given the power the Supreme Court has gathered unto itself in recent decades, there is nothing more important than bringing this branch of government back into line with the Founders' original intent. Does the president have the political will to do it? It will require a Herculean effort on the part of the White House, but in the end, it will be worth it. The 43rd president's legacy depends on it. Much more important, so does the future of the Republic.
Doug Patton is a freelance columnist who has served as a political speechwriter and policy advisor for federal, state and local candidates, elected officials and public policy organizations. His weekly column can be read in newspapers across the country and on selected Internet web sites, including www.TheConservativeVoice.com and www.GOPUSA.com, where he also serves as the Nebraska editor. Write him at
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