Security

Battle Over Supreme Court Already Raging on the Net

The battle over the nominee to replace retiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is already roaring — on the Internet.

An array of sites — from the left and the right — have already sprouted online, touting the views of their sponsors, and claiming that the nomination is the most important court appointment in American history, one that could determine the future of judge-made law, from Roe v. Wade to Miranda, and other cases.

President Bush this week tried to calm critics clamoring over the nomination process, and urged the Senate to “act in a dignified way” over the court choice.

The White House, however, is apparently resigned to scathing criticism, hyperbole, and other facets of the blog and Web culture, which already started the moment O’Connor, a Reagan appointee, stepped down, at age 75.

‘Constitution in Exile’

One organization, calling itself the Feminist Majority Foundation, at feminist.org, yesterday attacked Janice Rogers Brown, a Californian recently elevated to the federal appeals bench, and a favorite of many conservatives for her apparently pro-business stance.

“Rogers Brown has been widely mentioned in the press as a potential nominee to fill the Supreme Court vacancy,” said a statement on the front page of the site. “She is a supporter of the Constitution in exile, questioning the constitutionality of Social Security and most New Deal programs to regulate big business.”

Other sites took a less polemical approach — for now. Still, they were quite emphatic about the importance of the nomination for the general public, no matter their race, class or sex, as civilrights.org put it. “Once the ‘Supremes’ speak, that’s it — unless the Supreme Court later overturns itself, as it did in the landmark 1954 Brown school segregation decision that struck down the court’s 1896 endorsement of racial segregation,” writes Marc H. Morial, the president and chief executive officer of the National Urban League, based in Washington, D.C.

A site set up by the liberal group, People for the American Way, called savethecourt.org, is serving as an organizing tool to defeat whomever President Bush nominates. “We need to lay the groundwork now in case the worst happens,” said the site. “Please sign up as an activist.”

For those with less time on their hands, savethecourt.org implored them to donate US$10 to help fund the fight to stop the White House’s nominee. “If [President] Bush’s pick for the court is a threat to judicial independence, we will be in touch to mobilize you and thousands of other Americans to save the court,” said a statement on the site. “We can’t be caught flat footed. Organize now!”

Franklin’s ‘Energy Ties’

The right wing is getting in gear on the Net too. A site called upordownvote.com, sponsored by something called Progress for America, features a number of parodies — potential attack ads that may be used against the nominee. The spoofs, available in digital format, claim that George Washington would have been painted as an anti-environment “tree chopper” and that Benjamin Franklin would have been castigated for his “energy ties” if nominated to the high court in today’s heated atmosphere.

Lawmakers, for their part, are trying to keep the rhetoric minimized. A leading House Republican, and possible candidate for Illinois governor, appearing on Tuesday at the Fort Dearborn Group, a public policy forum, led by former White House attorney Joseph A. Morris, in Chicago, passed up the chance to pontificate on the Supreme Court nomination process.

Back in Washington, the White House appointed Fred Thompson, the former senator, and TV actor, who regularly appears on “Law and Order,” to shepherd the eventual nominee through the process, perhaps picking the lawyer because he is so familiar to TV audiences who will tune in online and on the tube to the nomination circus. Thompson was an attorney for the Republicans during the Senate Watergate hearings 30 years ago, and then served as senator from Tennessee when Al Gore left office to be Vice President during the Clinton Administration.

“Senator Thompson will guide the nominee through the confirmation process,” said Scott McClellan, White House spokesman, during a news conference.

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