The Last Temptation of the Right

Almost from the moment he entered the Republican Primary, Rudy Giuliani’s campaign has come under fire from the Right.  

In large part because of his marital history and his views on reproductive choice, several high profile right-wing leaders – including James Dobson, Richard Land, Richard Viguerie, and Tony Perkins – have already publicly declared that they will not, under any circumstances, vote for Giuliani or support his campaign.  In addition to this pressure, Giuliani is also coming under attack from grassroots organizations such as Catholics Against Rudy, which seeks to expose his “abysmal record on non-negotiable ‘Culture of Life’ issues.”

Faced with this mounting opposition to his candidacy, Giuliani has recently launched a concerted effort to neutralize these efforts and perhaps even entice a fair number of so-called “values voters” by appealing to their desire to see the Supreme Court utterly controlled by ultra-conservative justices.

Dominance of the Supreme Court has long been a right-wing goal and it is no secret that the confirmation of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the court has been one of the most significant and, for the Right, most gratifying and highly-praised  accomplishments of the Bush administration.   

Going into the 2008 election, the future of the Supreme Court is going to be a central issue and those on the Right know, in the words of Tony Perkins, “that next vacancy is just so incredibly important” – which is exactly why Giuliani is currently in the midst of pledging to just about anyone who will listen that, if he wins the GOP nomination and is elected, he will deliver for the Right:

As President, I will nominate strict constructionist judges with respect for the rule of law and a proven fidelity to the Constitution – judges in the mold of Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito and Chief Justice Roberts.

Giuliani’s commitment to nominating Scalia and Thomas-like judges has recently become a centerpiece of his campaign and is even listed as one of his “12 Commitments” that frame his campaign.  To demonstrate just how much Giuliani is banking on this pledge, his campaign recently unveiled a “Justice Advisory Committee” designed to signal to the Right just how committed he is to filling the bench with hard-right ideologues.  

Consisting of the likes of former Solicitor General Ted Olson, failed DC Circuit nominee Miguel Estrada, and Federalist Society co-founder Steven Calabresi, among others, Giuliani’s “Justice Advisory Committee” exists primarily in order to assure conservatives who may have qualms about him that he can and will deliver to them their ultimate prize: the Supreme Court.   

As Miguel Estrada stated during the unveiling of the committee:

[W]e need to make every effort we can to have the quality judicial appointments that we have had in Justice Alito and Chief Justice Roberts. And Rudy has stated in no uncertain terms that those are the models for what he looks for in his judges. He will be what our court system needs, is what our litigation society needs, and I am confident that with all of our help and your help he will be able to bring that home.”

For his part, Calabresi did his part to drive home the message:

 “The next President of the United States could easily end up making four appointments to the Supreme Court and I think the future of our 25 year struggle to rein in judicial activism is at stake. I’m convinced that Rudy Giuliani is the man who can win that fight. It’s an honor to be here and to be a member of his campaign advisory committee.”

Giuliani may not be the Right’s favorite candidate, but with no clear front-runner emerging, he appears to be seeking to position himself as the candidate most committed to fundamentally and lastingly shifting the balance on the Supreme Court in favor of the Right – a temptation he hopes just might be enough to weaken the resolve of even his most hardened right-wing foes.