Jewish World Review July 11 2005/ 4 Taamuz, 5765

Wesley Pruden

Wes Pruden
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Something nice for a good buddy | George W. Bush is loyal to his buddies. The gooder the good ol' boy, the better. It's one of the president's most endearing traits.

He stood up for Alberto Gonzales on his way to the G-8 summit in Scotland, scolding the "extremists" on the right who are suspicious of the attorney general's credentials as a conservative nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court.

"I don't like it when a friend gets criticized," the president told reporters at a stop in Denmark. "I'm loyal to my friends. And all of a sudden this fellow, who is a good public servant and a really fine person, is under fire. And so, do I like it? No. I don't like it at all."

This may or may not mean the president intends to nominate Mr. Gonzales to the Supreme Court. George W. is known to be partial to his friends, and a lot of conservatives are afraid that's what his Valentine for Alberto is about.

Sen. Harry Reid, the leader of the Democratic minority in the Senate who ordinarily thinks the president is "a loser" and looks for opportunities to say so, swiftly endorsed Mr. Gonzales, figuring that he's the best the Democratic left is likely to get. Other Democrats, who would ordinarily throw up at the very mention of the man who wrote the Guantanamo torture memos, are falling into line.

Mr. Gonzales himself has been campaigning for something with the enthusiasm of a Democratic alderman on the south side of Chicago. He has gone courting at the Heritage Foundation, Paul Weyrich's Free Congress Foundation, Grover Norquist's tax-cut breakfast, Laura Ingraham's radio talk show, and even to Baghdad to sup with the troops. He wants the conservatives to know how much he loves them, at least for now. Naturally all this campaigning doesn't have anything to do with panting for a seat on the Supreme Court, because that wouldn't be seemly. Whoever heard of an unseemly Washington lawyer?

But the buzz is confusing. George W. said not long ago that he wants to find Supreme Court nominees like Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, but some of his most faithful friends say that he's talking like that was then, and this is now. The faithful conservatives are always suspicious that the Republican biggies, who prize moderation except in the heat of an election campaign, is about to dump them. And it's true that "respectable" Republicans, so called, invariably sniff the air when the conservatives enter the room, as if they expect to be overwhelmed by bad breath or body odor. Most of the talk about Mr. Gonzales' qualifications is that (a) he's the president's good buddy, (b) he's an identifiable Hispanic, the current object of White House affection all sublime, and (c) maybe most important, Harry Reid and the Democrats think he might be "moderate" enough to suit them. They think he has the potential to "grow" up to be David Souter. They're terrified the president will choose a fully grown nominee, and they're willing to take somebody they despise to avoid getting someone they really hate.

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But what is a "moderate" judge? Mr. Justice Scalia, the man the president described as his model justice, offered his opinion earlier this year in a speech to the Woodrow Wilson Center. "What is a moderate interpretation of the text?" he asked. "Halfway between what it really means and what you'd like it to mean? There is no such thing as a moderate interpretation of the text. Would you ask a lawyer, 'Draw me a moderate contract'?

"The only way the word has any meaning is if you are looking for someone to write a law, to write a constitution, rather than to interpret one. I think the very terminology suggests that's where we have arrived: at the point of selecting people to write a constitution, rather than people to give us the fair meaning of one that has been democratically adopted ...

"When we are in that mode, you realize, we have rendered the Constitution useless, because the Constitution will mean what the majority wants it to mean."

Majorities change, of course, but the Democrats don't want to hear that, and echo the president's description of fair criticism of Mr. Gonzales as "attacks." But none of the criticism smacks of the personal. The "attacks" have actually been "civil" and "dignified." The president's loyalty to his friend is nevertheless exemplary, and doing something nice for a friend is, well, nice. But it's hardly necessary to nominate a pal to the Supreme Court to demonstrate loyalty and affection. He could just send flowers and a box of candy.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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