Saturday, September 03, 2005

Rehnquist Passes

Chief Justice William Rehnquist died this evening. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family of a man who has served his country for more that 30 years.

On a more crass level, this will certainly add fuel to an already combustible situation in Washington. Bush has three options -- nominate someone that people can rally behind; someone who will be unstinting but very competent (the John Roberts route); or a flash point conservative, and bait the Democrats to filibuster.

Given the weakened position the White House finds itself in right now, I think the third option is probably out. The first option would be ideal, but that person may not exist. So I would expect another competent, but largely uncontroversal nominee.

I imagine that the short list is the same as it was in July: Third Circuit Appeals Court Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., D.C. Circuit Appeals Court Judge Janice Rogers Brown, Fifth Circuit Appeals Court Judge Edith Brown Clement, U.S. Senator John Cornyn, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Dole, Fifth Circuit Appeals Court Judge Emilio M. Garza, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, Fifth Circuit Appeals Court Judge Edith Hollan Jones, D.C. Circuit Appeals Court Judge J. Michael Luttig, Tenth Circuit Appeals Judge Michael W. McConnell, White House Counsel Harriet Miers, former Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson, Seventh Circuit Court Appeals Judge Diane S. Sykes, former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, Fourth Circuit Appeals Court Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III, and Fourth Circuit Appeal Court Judge Karen J. Williams.

Quick thoughts: he will stay away from Olsen and Janice Brown - too inflammatory; he will probably not nominate either of the New Orleans based Ediths (Jones and Clement) - the symbolism would be too dangerous. My best guess is Alberto Gonzales or Larry Thompson. (In July I guessed Edith Jones, apparently the runner-up, or at least the decoy.)

Of course, he will also be nominating a Chief Justice, probably Scalia, which would allow him to mollify some of Gonzales' critics on the far right wing of the GOP.

September and October are shaping up to be very interesting months, probably too interesting for the denizens of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.