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Supreme Court appointment not so supreme

July 07, 2005|by TIM ROWLAND

  • Commentary


I'm officially withdrawing my name for consideration for an appointment to the Supreme Court. Who knew they had to work summers?

I always thought they showed up in November and maybe then again in March, made a few decisions and retired to the Catskills for the rest of the year. But here they've been deciding stuff in June. Well, forget that noise, I'm trying to work less in the summer. The president can just go out and find himself someone else.

Personally, I can't understand why so many people have their gizzards in an uproar over which lawyerly trilobite is going to be added to that collection of black-robed fossils in Washington, who while-away long hours contemplating the finer points of the interstate commerce clause.

The nation's larger newspapers have been hyperventilating and hemorrhaging paragraphs ever since Judge Sandra Day "Sandy Baby" O'Connor announced her resignation. I mean, I understand this is important in some respects, but it's not like we're naming a starting pitcher for the All-Star Game here.

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Here's what most of America knows about O'Connor: At a formal dinner gathering, former Washington Redskins running back John Riggins once told her to "loosen up."

That would have been great advice if she had chosen to listen, which of course she didn't. She went on to take her position on the bench seriously - just once, I'd like to see one of the judges show up in fake nose and glasses, instead of pretending that every decision they make will end up determining our viability as a democratic nation.

And we buy into the hype. The Washington Post reports that special interest groups will spend $100 million to try to influence the president's choice for a nominee. Liberal groups have weighed in, threatening that the national agenda before Congress will be permanently stalled if he chooses someone who is too conservative.

That's a grown-up way of looking at things. It's like telling your car that if the radio plays one more song you don't like, you're going to stop filling it up with gas.

Conservative groups have weighed in as well, warning the president - and I love this more than I can say - that the dude heading up the attorney general's office who thinks torturing prisoners is good government policy would be a disaster because he's "too liberal."

Like, what would the far right find to be an acceptable treatment of prisoners, feeding them to sharks? Something more biblical maybe, like a lion's den?

If anyone is losing sleep over who the next Supreme Court judge will be, this particular person is in need of a severe reality check. The average Washington Countian's life is going to be far more affected by Robinwood Drive traffic patterns than by who gets appointed to the court. Whether we get a "strict constructionist" or a "judicial advocate" really has nothing to do with the price of crabs. We'll worry along one way or another.

Frankly, I think we're in a pretty good place. The Bush administration has already pretty much trampled all those fringe rights that don't affect the majority of the population, and as far as I am concerned, it was about time. But if they go any further and start chipping away at the more fundamental rights, the public will boot their type out of office.

I think I'm like a lot of people: If some murdering thug doesn't get his Miranda rights read to him and he gets sent up the river anyway, this is not what I am likely to call a Very Big Deal. But if some loon judge says the government has the right to start opening my mail, I'm probably going to put some serious thought into the next election.

It's weird. It hasn't been so very long ago that America didn't hold its collective breath waiting anxiously to see who the next Supreme Court judge was going to be. We used to be smarter. We used to understand that it just didn't matter.

Did anyone go about gasping that the world was going to end when Lewis Powell was appointed to the bench? Did mothers hide their children in the basement at the appointment of Abe Fortas? Did thousands of demonstrators take to the streets to protest Harry Blackmun?

To be honest, I don't know and I don't feel like looking it up. But I don't recall anything more than a collective national shrug. Agronsky and Company and a few other policy wonks might have cared, but nobody else did. Now the process is challenging reality TV as a national pastime.

Jeepers. As John Riggins would say, we need to loosen up.

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