President Obama was right to label Mitt Romney’s views on foreign policy “wrong and reckless” in Monday night’s debate, which is why Romney backed away from all of those positions: he wants suburban women, in particular, to see him as a reasonable and sober guy, not some scary, bellicose reincarnation of George W. Bush.
This is, of course, wholly cynical. Had Obama shifted positions on as many important political issues, the GOP and Beltway media would have carved him up and served him raw. But as frightening as it is to envision a Romney foreign policy, driven by the likes of John Bolton, Dan Senor and Tommy Franks, what should be truly scary to those suburban women is what Romney would do to the United States Supreme Court.
“Moderate” as he has tried to sound, as he shakes the Etch-A-Sketch and erase his GOP primary campaign positions, a President Romney would radically alter the Supreme Court with devastating impacts on women’s rights, civil rights, immigration policies, environmental law, interstate commerce and much more.
Romney has – after pretending to be pro-choice in order to win as governor of Massachusetts – returned to his LDS anti-abortion roots. If he were to have an opportunity to replace 79-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and perhaps even Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy, both 76, the Supreme Court would become a bastion of right-wing legal theology for decades to come.
“If Romney were only to replace Ginsburg, the impact on the law would be enormous,” UCLA law professor Adam Winkler wrote the other day. “Even though the Court, which splits five to four on the most divisive issues, already leans right, the liberal justices have won important victories thanks to Kennedy, who occasionally swings to their side. A conservative replacement for Ginsburg would give the Scalia bloc on the Court a solid five votes, even without Kennedy.”
Those suburban women – Republicans, Democrats and independents alike – for whom abortion rights, access to contraception and equal pay for equal work are important measures of social justice, would find their interests utterly wiped out by the Romney Court.
Too little attention is paid to this issue because it’s impossible to prove what kind of justices any president would appoint. But if you’re looking for clues, Winkler points out the centrality of Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas in Romney’s approach to the Court.
Despite Romney’s recent move to the middle, don’t expect him to name a moderate to the Court. He’s repeatedly said he wants to nominate justices in the mold of Clarence Thomas, who is arguably the most conservative Supreme Court justice of the last 100 years. A recent study comparing justices’ views to public opinion found that Thomas was more conservative than 97% of Americans.
Earlier in the campaign, Romney named well-known conservative Robert Bork to be one of his lead advisers on the courts. Bork, you may recall, was nominated to the Supreme Court by Ronald Reagan, only to be rejected by the Senate because of his extreme views on civil rights (he once claimed civil rights laws infringed white people’s freedom of association), privacy (he called the Supreme Court’s opinion protecting access to contraception “utterly specious”), and free speech (which, he said, did not protect artistic or literary expression).
Bork was also an early combatant in what is now known as the War on Women. He’s said that the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws “should be kept to things like race and ethnicity,” not gender or sexual orientation.
Calbuzzers aren’t likely to be swayed by these arguments because they are politically savvy readers among whom there are, we suspect, no undecided voters. But they may know some still wavering voters or be plugged into a campaign in Ohio, Virginia, Florida or Iowa where a healthy fear of what Romney could do to the Court just might persuade some of those suburban women Romney is trying to hoodwink.