Memo to Time: The Far Right Knows the Supreme Court Matters

Talk about bad timing! Time magazine’s cover story telling Americans the Supreme Court isn’t relevant to their lives appeared the very same week that every major Republican presidential candidate will appear before the right-wing leaders at the so-called “Values Voter Summit” and pledge more Supreme Court justices in the Roberts-Alito-Scalia-Thomas mold.

The premise of the article is dead wrong, as People For the American Way Foundation’s Legal Director Judith E. Schaeffer made clear in her response. The Court’s decisions have a huge impact on Americans’ rights and liberties – and their ability to count on the courts to uphold the protections guaranteed by our Constitution. That’s especially true when the President asserts his ability to ignore those protections and has too often bullied Congress into going along.

Not only is the Roberts Court creating new legal hurdles that will keep people hurt by corporate or government wrongdoing from seeking justice in the federal courts, it is tripping down the ideological path cleared by the Federalist Society to reverse many of the legal and social justice gains of the past few decades and erode Americans’ legal rights and protections.

The radical right is thrilled that Bush’s nominees – Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito – have joined the Court’s far-right voting bloc anchored by Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. And they’re keenly focused on the impact that the next president will have as additional vacancies likely occur. They see 2008 as their chance to cement a reactionary Court in place for a generation.

That’s why the GOP presidential candidates are going out of their way to prove their right-wing credentials regarding the Court.

Rudy Giuliani has made his pledge to appoint more far-right judges justices the linchpin of his appeal to social conservatives dubious about his past support for gay rights and reproductive choice. He seems unconcerned that such justices might overturn Roe v. Wade. Giuliani’s “Justice Advisory Committee” is chaired by former Solicitor General Ted Olson, and features failed judicial nominee Miguel Estrada, Federalist Society co-founder Steven Calabresi, Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow Walter Olson – and initially included Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey.

Mitt Romney has his own collection of right-wing legal activists serving as his campaign’s “Advisory Committee on the Constitution and the Courts,” including Jay Sekulow, who heads the Pat Robertson-founded American Center for Law and Justice, the Judicial Confirmation Network’s Wendy Long, and folks like Douglas Kmiec, Bradford Berenson, and James Bopp.

Fred Thompson, trying to position himself as the only true conservative among the top tier, has also made a right-wing Court part of his pitch, made this a part of his pitch, telling the National Review, “I like Roberts and Alito and Scalia and Thomas.”

And while James Dobson and other Religious Right leaders are engaged in a high-stakes threat (or bluff) to abandon the GOP if Rudy Giuliani is the nominee, others are saying “It’s all about the judges” and warning that conservatives can’t afford the risk of letting Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama be the one nominating judges.

Of course, the Supreme Court won’t be the only thing on the minds of attendees at this week’s “Values Voter Summit.” There’ll be plenty of time for spreading the lie that gay people want to throw Christians in jail, strategizing about turning your church into a conservative political machine, and working to criminalize abortion, all as a lead-up to the gala celebration of James Dobson, the reigning godfather of the Religious Right. And, of course, being courted by every major Republican presidential nominee. You can follow the fun here.

[Cross-posted at The Huffington Post]