That mantra was invoked by all manner of well-meaning people during the late presidential campaign. “We can’t waste our vote on Buchanan. We have to vote for George W. Bush. He’s going to reshape the Supreme Court with his appointments. The Court, the Court, the Court.” I was viewed as something of a nine-headed troglodyte for simply reciting the simple truth that as governor of Texas the man who is now president-elect appointed four pro-aborts to the Texas Supreme Court, each of whom voted in March of 2000 to overturn a mere parental-notification bill that had been passed by the Texas legislature. “That doesn’t matter,” I was told over and over again. “Bush will be different as President. You wait and see. He wants to save the babies.”
Readers of my newsletter Christ or Chaos know how entirely consistent I have been in predicting that a President George W. Bush would nominate to serve on the federal bench the exact sort of people he placed on the bench throughout the Texas judiciary. (Indeed, Bush is so thoroughly predictable that it is really unfair to even make these predictions.) I have gone so far as to say that Bush might even elevate one of his Texas pro-abort pals to the nation’s high court.
Well, guess what, folks? Bush is going to name Texas Supreme Court Judge Al Gonzales, a pro-abort (termed a “moderate” Republican by the media), as his White House counsel. That is a prelude to Gonzales’ being tapped to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States as the first person of Mexican-American heritage to be so honored. Bush knows full well that anyone who opposes Gonzales’ nomination to serve on the Court — perhaps even as chief justice to replace William Rehnquist when he retires — will be tarred and feathered as a bigot. The new president will thus seek to marginalize and isolate the handful of U.S. senators — New Hampshire’s Bob Smith, North Carolina’s Jesse Helms, possibly Oklahoma’s Don Nickles — who might raise a stink over Gonzales' nomination. Oh, I can see how a Gonzales nomination to the Supreme Court would play out. Indeed, it would be Sandra Day O’Connor, Part Deux. How very ironic.
Remember, former California Governor Ronald Wilson Reagan was sworn in as president on January 20, 1981 (hard to believe it’s been twenty years since then). A lot of pro-lifers, including me, really believed that Reagan was going to do something to help reverse Roe v. Wade. Republicans had gained control of the Senate for the first time since the 1952 elections. There was a working pro-life majority in the House. There were high expectations as Reagan took office.
However, Reagan was surrounded by pro-aborts within the White House, starting with his wife, Nancy Davis Reagan, who had a lot more influence behind the scenes than anyone truly understood at the outset of the Reagan years. White House Chief of Staff James Baker was a George Bush “moderate.” And the Deputy Chief of Staff, Michael Deaver, was a pro-abort who had been instrumental in advising Reagan to sign California’s baby-killing bill into law in 1967 when the latter was the Golden State’s governor. It was the considered judgment of the Reagan inner circle that the appointment of a woman to the Supreme Court to replace outgoing Associate Justice Potter Stewart, an appointee of President Eisenhower (and a close friend of the late Connecticut Senator Prescott Bush, father of then-Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush), would help Reagan close a perceived “gender gap” with women voters.
Pro-life activists rightly felt betrayed. They had vouched for Reagan’s pro-life credentials despite the fact that he supported abortion in the cases of rape, incest, and alleged threats to the life of a mother. They overlooked his selection of the pro-abortion former congressman, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, former U.S. Trade Representative to China, and former director of the CIA George Bush as vice president, wanting to believe that Bush really meant it when he said he had a change of heart on the matter after Dr. John Wilkie, founder of the National Right to Life Committee, gave him a presentation on the issue. Thus, many pro-life activists really believed that Reagan would come through for them with respect to his Court nominations, which is why they were bitterly disappointed with his nomination of O’Connor, who turned out to be the only appointment to the Supreme Court he would make during his first term.
American Life League president Judie Brown and Conservative Caucus Foundation chairman Howard Phillips testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about O’Connor’s nomination. Both presented incontrovertible evidence about O’Connor’s pro-abortion voting record as a member of the Arizona State Senate. None of that meant a blessed thing to supposedly pro-life senators (most of whom, obviously, supported abortion in the same instances as Reagan). No, the “conservative” Reagan had nominated O’Connor. They were not about to say no to the man who had survived an assassin’s bullet and was beloved by the American public. If Sandra Day O’Connor was the woman Reagan wanted, she was the woman he would get on the nation’s high court. Nobody wanted to be termed a “sexist” by voting against O’Connor’s nomination.
Well, it’s happening all over again. George W. Bush places a very high value on personal loyalty to himself from his associates. One must demonstrate unswerving fealty to him to be included as part of his “inner circle.” The pro-abort Al Gonzales, who had served as Bush’s gubernatorial counsel before he was placed on the Texas Supreme Court, is just such a man, loyal to the new president-elect to a fault. Bush wants to demonstrate his own appreciation to Gonzales for his proven loyalty — and at the same time prove to his liberal critics that he really meant it when he said that he had no litmus test for his judicial nominees. After all, there is a working pro-abortion majority of 56-44 in the Senate that convened on January 3. Bush had planned all along to nominate a pro-abort as his first election to the Supreme Court. The political realities in the Senate provide him with great cover to do so. And who is going to oppose a Mexican-American? Nobody wants to be called a racist, right?
The record of Republican nominees to serve on the Supreme Court has been spotty. Reagan gave us O’Connor. He also gave us Antonin Scalia, who, as I have noted in Christ or Chaos, is essentially a legal positivist who eschews the use of the natural law in constitutional interpretation. When Reagan tried to appoint Judge Robert Bork to the Court in 1987, he was met with a torrent of opposition from the pro-aborts in the Senate, then controlled by the Democrats. He had to settle for Anthony Kennedy, who has turned out to be a consistent vote in favor of the “right” of a woman to kill her child in the womb. Remember, this, however: there were several Republicans (Arlen Specter and John Chafee among them) who opposed Bork’s nomination vigorously. They had made support for child-killing a litmus test for themselves insofar as confirmation of nominees to serve on the Supreme Court was concerned.
The first President Bush gave us David Souter and Clarence Thomas, who is arguably the only justice on the Supreme Court who uses, however subtly, the natural law as the basis of his decisions. Souter, however, was exposed by Howard Phillips as a man who had voted to permit so-called elective baby-killing at a hospital in New Hampshire on whose board of trustees he served. Just as Sandra Day O’Connor’s pro-abortion record meant nothing to supposedly pro-life senators, so was it the case that Souter’s demonstrated pro-abortion position was overlooked. He was confirmed by a vote of 99-0 in 1990. How very just it was, therefore, to find Souter on the side of the justices voting for the position of Al Gore in the case of Bush v. Gore on December 12.
The Clinton years have seen Republicans rubber-stamping almost all of President Clinton’s nominees to serve on all levels of the federal judiciary. Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Stephen Breyer were confirmed with virtual unanimity on the part of pro-life Republicans, who also voted to confirm Clinton’s picks to serve on vacancies on the 88 U.S. District Courts and twelve U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal. The life issue has meant nothing to the senators who say they are pro-life. It is no accident, you see, that neither the National Right to Life Committee nor the Christian Coalition includes judicial confirmation votes on the fraudulent voter “scorecards” they produce and distribute to voters. Can’t do anything that explodes the utter mythology of Republicans being champions of the unborn, can we?
Mark my words: the only people who will register opposition to Al Gonzales when Bush nominates him for the Supreme Court will be Gary Bauer and Jerry Falwell and Pat Buchanan and Howard Phillips. Pro-life senators will fall in line for Bush’s nominee. Father Frank Pavone will go into hiding. Wanda Franz and the National Right to Life Committee will send out newsletters praising the nomination (thereby continuing the policy of outright deception they have practiced for so very long). Others will say that we have to overlook Gonzales' pro-abortion record, that he will change once he is on the Court. “Scalia will change Gonzales,” we’ll be told. “If Bush is selecting him, he can’t be pro-abortion, not really.” Thus, Gonzales will take his place on the Court alongside David Souter and Sandra Day O’Connor. Look for Bush’s second nominee to serve on the Supreme Court to be a pro-abortion Asian-American. Once again, you read it here first.
Obviously, this was all so predictable. Bush is ridiculously predictable. And the placid, compliant reaction of delusional pro-lifers will also be predictable: they will continue to close their eyes, telling themselves (and those of us who are mean enough to remind them of reality) that Bush is better than Gore, a mantra that will replace “the Court, the Court, the Court.” How much better is Bush than Gore when Bush will make it a point to place people on the Court who believe in the destruction of our Lord mystically in the person of unborn children? Sandra Day O’Connor, Part Deux, indeed.
As Catholics, we have the obligation to see the world clearly through the eyes of the true faith. Reality is what it is. Nobody who supports one single abortion as a matter of principle is pro-life. Nobody who believes that abortion is a matter of “opinion” understands the prophetic nature of the life issue. Nobody who appoints pro-aborts to his government cares one whit about helping to foster a culture of life.
The sad part of what we are witnessing at present is rather obvious to me. Just as Al Gore lives in a fantasy world where he has convinced himself he actually won the presidency on November 7, so do many pro-lifers live in a fantasy world where religious faith must be placed in Republican office-holders even after they betray the cause of life one time after another.
Are we ever going to wake up?
Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.
Thomas A. Droleskey, Ph.D.