Farewell, Sandra; Hello, Dogfight

Farewell, Sandra; Hello, Dogfight

Farewell, Sandra; Hello, Dogfight

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
July 1 2005 5:34 PM

Farewell, Sandra; Hello, Dogfight

Bloggers are buzzing about Sandra Day O'Connor's retirement from the Supreme Court. They're also piecing together the past of the Iranian president-elect and discussing updated plans for the Freedom Tower at Ground Zero.

Farewell, Sandra; hello, dogfight:Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a moderate who has frequently cast deciding votes in an ideologically divided court, has announced her retirement after 24 terms.

"Yikes," yelps kinetic collegiate Democrat Ezra Klein. "A Rehnquist retirement would've been a fight, but O'Connor's seat is going to provoke a bloody, balls-out battle, as her successor can swing the court decisively to the right." Count George Mason law professor Todd Zywicki, posting at legal salon The Volokh Conspiracy, convinced. "At this point, a confirmation battle will be supply-side driven—the interest groups have the money already, and they are going to spend it one way or the other," he writes. " ... And the politicians are going to try to raise money by pandering to these same players. No one is going to roll over on either side just because a particular nominee is thought to be 'moderate' rather than 'conservative.' The credentials or qualifications of the particular nominee under consideration will be largely beside the point."

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Others agree the impending battle will be just a lot of sound and fury. "O'Connor's retirement may shift the Court a lot less than people think," opines Orin Kerr, also at TheVolokh Conspiracy. "In the big ideological cases of the last Term, Justice Kennedy was the swing vote as often as (or maybe even more often than) Justice O'Connor," he says. Assuming O'Connor is replaced by a more conservative candidate, he writes, "the left-of-center Justices presumably still have 4 very reliable votes and a good shot at picking up a 5th vote with Kennedy. Plus, new Justices are hard to predict."

Nevertheless, plenty of bloggers are pretty sure they know exactly how a new justice will vote. Liberals Bradford Plumer  of Mother Jones'MoJo Blog *, David Sirota, and Washington MonthlyPolitical Animal Kevin Drum all predict that Bush will make a politically savvy, ultraconservative nomination, doomed to defeat, in order to spin a second, merely hard-right conservative as a "compromise candidate." At the Supreme Court Nomination Blog, sibling to SCOTUSblog, Marty Lederman lists some decisions that were decided by O'Connor's vote and which he says may now be endangered, and at Eschaton, liberal standby Atrios thinks the reversal of Roe v. Wade is a forgone conclusion. Conservatives are equally animated. "It is moments like these when we understand why the election of 2004 was so important," writes Matt Margolis, who links to other reaction as well, at Blogs for Bush. "With Bush as president, we can be sure that we'll get respectable judges nominated who will faithfully interpret the Constitution, not rewrite it. We don't have to fear nominees who will legislate from the bench, or activist judges who will put ideology before the law."

Others slam the popular obsession with the political makeup of the court. "Using political labels for justices obscures the underlying power issues at stake," argues Edward Whelan at the National Review's Bench Memos. "There is nothing sacrosanct (or 'balanced,' for that matter) about the current composition of the Court," he says. "Funny, no one seemed concerned about the shift in balance when Ruth Bader Ginsburg replaced Byron White."

Read more blog posts about O'Connor here and more about SCOTUS here. Don't forget to readSlate's take.

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Where have you been since 1979?: In a story pushed heavily by online media, several  survivors have identified Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's hard-line president-elect, as a leader of the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Ahmadinejad won a surprising landslide victory last week. A White House investigation has been launched.

"It would be hard to dispute the contention that Iran is a terrorist nation when the 'population' just elected a known terrorist as president," writesInterested-Participant Mike Pechar. "By any reasonable measure of justice, Ahmadinejad should be in prison, not the presidential palace," he says. "If so, and the evidence looks damning, then one could make the argument that Ahmadinejad helped start the Islamofascist offensive against the United States," observes conservative Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters. Some are wondering why any doubt remains. "Wouldn't you think that the US would know more about this guy by now?" asks conservative Gateway Pundit. "He had been running a campaign for months now."

Read more about the president-elect here.

Freedom Tower, Take 2:Another new redesign of the much-maligned Freedom Tower at Ground Zero, released Wednesday, sets a single skyscraper on an impenetrable, windowless 200-foot base. "I think it's simpler and at the same time a lot more elegant," said New York Gov. George Pataki. Bloggers aren't so sure.

"We have always maintained that if anybody had faith in the current master plan for downtown then the developer who is taking the financial risks should be given a free hand to build whatever he wanted at Ground Zero—even the world's tallest parking garage," says the 911 Memorials blogger. "Little did we know that Larry Silverstein would actually do something very similar." Michael Bowen, an "unconventional, unreconstructed Republican," agrees. "The new Freedom Tower looks to be something a highschool kid could have designed. In his sleep."

Read more bloggers' responses to the redesign.

Questions? Comments? E-mail todaysblogs@slate.com

Correction, July 5: The article originally spelled Bradford Plumer's name incorrectly. (Return to the corrected sentence.)