Presidency will be viewed in many lights

Published 3:50 am Wednesday, June 20, 2007

By By Steve Flowers
The presidency of George W. Bush will be viewed by history in two different lights. His Iraq blunder has devastated our nation. Besides the thousands of American lives lost, our respect and admiration has been destroyed worldwide, and he has incurred the largest financial deficit in our lifetimes with his hapless invasion. It will take years, maybe decades, to recover from the Bush Iraq debacle. Historians will be no kinder to Bush than the 72 percent of Americans who abysmally disapprove of his policy.
However, the religious right will hail him for decades as the Messiah. He ran as a social conservative and he has delivered. He has been as unwavering in his devotion to his conservative beliefs and his commitment to the social brethren as he has to his war. Religious conservatives comprise over one third of the Republican Party base. This core of religious conservatives elected Bush twice. Polling indicates the overwhelming turnout of social conservatives in swing states like Ohio made the difference in 2004.
One of the most indelible hallmarks that a president leaves during his term in the White House is his appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court. This tribunal determines the law of the land and they are appointed for life. These Justices are rendering major decisions over American public policy for decades and in some cases generations after the President who appointed them has long left office. A President is fortunate to have one appointment during a term. George W. Bush has had two, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito. These two Bush appointees have proven to be rock solid social conservatives.
The litmus test issue on most social conservatives' agenda is the abortion issue. Anti-abortion conservatives have long abhorred the 1973 Roe v. Wade landmark decision which upholds a woman's right to have an abortion in the first trimester of a pregnancy. They want the 34 year old law of the land reversed.
The recent decision by the High Court to uphold a federal law banning "partial birth" abortions was a major step in that direction. It resoundingly sent a message that this more conservative court has a Bush imprint. The 5 to 4 decision was propelled by the two Bush appointees. Justice Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia were joined by the pivotal Bush Justices Roberts and Alito. Justice Anthony Kennedy is the swing vote and he wrote the majority opinion in the partial birth ban decision.
The key swing vote on the Court against abortion is Alito who Bush appointed when Sandra Day O'Conner retired in 2006. O'Conner was pro choice. Alito had a proven conservative record on abortion as an appeals court judge. That is why Bush picked him.
Bush has unquestionably guided the Supreme Court towards a rightward turn on the abortion issue. He could move it further in his final year and a half in office. One of the most liberal pro abortion Justices, John Paul Stevens, is 87 years old. The most ardent liberal dissenter in the recent opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who wrote the dissenting opinion said that the Courts decision recalls ancient notions about women's place in society.
President Bush quietly claimed victory and simply said that the decision affirms the progress his administration has made to defend the sanctity of life. Bush has unquestionably been a hero and a valiant champion for the religious right. He has left an indelible conservative imprint on the Supreme Court. His legacy as a social conservative will be recorded for posterity.
The monumental question facing the Republican right in this Presidential election is who can carry on the Bush legacy? All of the Republican favorites are more like Democrats on the abortion issue. The frontrunner, Rudy Giuliani, is pro choice. John McCain, who is running second, is pro choice. Mitt Romney, who is a distant third in the polls, was pro choice as a Massachusetts Governor but has conveniently flip flopped on the issue in hopes of appealing to the right wing GOP voters. They seem hesitant to trust his conversion. The anti-abortion advocates are searching and praying for another George W. Bush.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama's leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 70 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be reached at <>

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