It matters enormously, in every non-political sense, who President Bush nominates to succeed "moderate" Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court. But politically it matters not at all. We are about to endure a Supreme Court confirmation that will make the 1968 Chicago Democratic convention look tame. Only a day after O'Connor announced her retirement, and without a successor in sight, NOW president Kim Gandy declared a state of emergency regarding women's rights. Soon we'll see everything from the Million Mooron March on Washington to a Senate filibuster showdown that the President may not win. This is win or go home time for Dubya. To win, the President needs to adapt his war strategy to his politics: the best defense against the coming liberal onslaught is a good offense. One that absorbs much of the Senate's excess energy and corners the liberals in the same way they were cornered last year.
The President should take the offense in the Supreme Court fight for one simple reason: the libs are vastly more vulnerable politically than he is. If he allows them to dominate politics with the confirmation process, they may win that fight and too many others. Decisive, forceful leadership on the Court and other issues is the way to stop the Deanocrats in their tracks. The President's victory last November is attributable, in no small part, to social conservatives who voted not so much for Mr. Bush as against legalizing same-sex marriages, against courts that toy with the Pledge of Allegiance, and against a man who they obviously could not rely on to defend their personal freedoms at home or their nation abroad. When the President nominates someone who produces howls and shrieks from NOW, Michael Moore, and Howard Dean, the Americans who re-elected George Bush in November can be re-energized, and the libs again defeated.
The liberals will suffer the most when -- as is almost certain -- Chief Justice Rehnquist also resigns and the President nominates a second judicial conservative. Howard Dean's head may implode, others will spontaneously combust, and the rest will vanish into their psychiatrists' offices. (I once recommended the purchase of Roche Pharmaceuticals and GlaxoSmithKline stock because they make Wellbutrin and Prozac. If you don't buy them now, you really should die poor.) The libs, not Dubya, will suffer Confirmation Paralysis. It is thus precisely the right time to pull out all the stops, and accomplish some critical objectives.
For each liberal attack there must be a counterattack. Today we may learn from the Time magazine papers divulged to a grand jury that the source of the leak of Joe Wilson's wife's identity as a CIA agent was White House chief of staff Karl Rove. If it was Rove who leaked the story, the President and the Attorney General should defend Rove to the death for one simple reason: there was no crime committed. If it wasn't, the Attorney General should order an end to this out of control investigation. And this would be a good time to go ahead -- as publicly as possible -- with the criminal investigation of Senators Rockefeller, Wyden and Durbin for their leak of the highly classified satellite program last December. Failing to push that investigation -- into an act much more likely to be criminal than the Plame leak -- has garnered precisely zero goodwill from Senate Dems, including those who should likely be serving their terms at Club Fed, not in the Senate. It's time to be doing what the law requires: investigate fully, and push every political -- and judicial -- button to punish those who are so apparently deserving of punishment.
The libs will also assume that with the President focused on the Supreme Court, they will be able to have their way with the war. They will try to impose funding restrictions on the Iraq war, and there will be much more talk of withdrawal schedules. Anyone who doubts that the Dems will demand a reduction of funding for the war and some schedule for withdrawal hasn't been listening to them for the past 37 years. And there's only one way to deal with that: let the Big Dog run. It's well past time that we regain the strategic initiative in the war, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the Joint Chiefs are the men to trust with that job. No one in Foggy Bottom -- of either gender -- is.
The war in Iraq is going well, but is strategically stagnant. We know, all too well, that the Syrian sanctuary is allowing terrorists to regroup, retrain and smuggle people and weapons into Iraq. One senior Defense Department official told me that the reason we aren't doing what we should be doing in Syria is that there are some nations we'd rather not go to war with now. Okay, fine. There are many things we can do with -- and to -- Syria with a secret Presidential Decision Directive. The President should sign such a directive to authorize decisive action against Syria and all the terrorists it hides. The Defense Department is capable of much more than it is being asked. It's time for the President to regain the strategic initiative in this war. Secretly and decisively we can turn Syria into a null quantity, and undo the Iranian nuclear program. Once that's begun, let's declassify the PDD and let the Senate chew on that for a while.
Our economy is suffering daily damage from the incredibly high price of oil. Stop-gap measures such as opening the Alaska Natural Wildlife Refuge to drilling are good, but only help at the margins. The President should take on an Oil Offensive, pressuring OPEC to reduce prices while demanding Congress act on measures making the construction of nuclear power plants possible on a fast-track. If we're going to do it, and we must, we shouldn't have to await another two decades of environmentalist lawsuits and congressional buffoonery. If this -- and other energy measures -- are to accomplish anything, they must be done quickly. JFK said we should put a man on the moon in less than a decade, and we did. There should be dozens of new nuclear power plants on line by 2010. The President should ask the Congress to join him in making this happen.
Next should be the recess appointment of John Bolton to the UN ambassadorship. Sen. Joe Biden, whose presidential ambition is now declared, has said clearly that Bolton will never be confirmed. When it becomes obvious that the Supreme Court nominee is stalled, the President should appoint Bolton over the next recess. This will show determination, not disrespect for the Senate opposition. It will help, not hurt, the chances that the coming filibuster will fail.
Last, and decidedly not least, let's forget NAFTA, CAFTA and whateverthehellelseAFTA. We have some real allies who are not given preferential trade treatment. The President should open negotiations with Turkey, Poland and other European nations who could benefit from better trade with us. Those negotiations should absorb a lot of the Senate's excess energy.
The liberals will make their last stand on the Supreme Court confirmations of this year and next. They can win, if quavering Republicans such as John Warner -- and the RINOs such as the Ladies of Maine -- don't stand with the President on the filibuster. But they will lose if the President takes the battle to them.
TAS contributing editor Jed Babbin is the author of Inside the Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe Are Worse Than You Think (Regnery, 2004).
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