Bush's Legacy: A Conservative Court

With Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito on the bench, Bush's two appointments have shifted the balance of the court in a drastic way.

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Those of us who have maintained that President Bush will leave only a string failures as his legacy are mistaken. He has left us with a conservative Supreme Court, possibly for a number of years. He would consider that an accomplishment.

With Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito on the bench, Bush's two appointments have shifted the balance of the court in a drastic way. Based on decisions so far, those two jurists seem bent on overturning rulings by the Warren Court and even the Rehnquist Court.

Roberts and Alito have joined two other hard core rightists, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, who along with Anthony Kennedy make for five conservative votes.

Forget the talk that Kennedy would be a swing vote to replace Sandra Day O'Connor. In every important ruling recently, Kennedy has joined the four conservatives. If liberals expected more from Kennedy, they have to be dismayed.

Bush's near contempt for the court was displayed when he nominated Harriet Miers to replace O'Connor. Even conservatives howled at her lack of qualifications. She withdrew amid strong opposition in the Senate from both parties.

(Come to think if it, maybe she would have been better than Alito.)

Another consideration of today's court is the number of Catholics. They form a majority of their own—Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy. As a practicing Catholic myself, I wonder about the imbalance of religion among the nine who make important decisions on American life.

It does have a bearing on philosophical decisions on social matters such as abortion.

Currently, there is only one woman on the court. And Ruth Bader Ginsburg's health is a concern.

At 87, John Paul Stevens is one of the longest-serving justices, appointed more than 30 years ago by Gerald Ford. Stevens seems bent on remaining until a progressive president, probably a Democrat, chooses a replacement for him. He has been a bulwark against the right.

Justices David Souter and Stephen Breyer are the two others who form the minority of four. There are reports that Souter, a surprise liberal as the elder Bush's appointee, is eager to go home to New Hampshire.

So the next time you hear people dismiss Bush as a do-nothing president, you should correct them. He got the nation in a miserable war, but he also gave us two justices who seem hell bent on rewriting earlier court decisions.