Battle over judges takes center stage

One of the biggest differences between the Republican and Democratic conventions is how the two parties have dealt with the issue of federal judicial appointments.

Among prominent speakers at the Democratic convention, only Al Gore even mentioned judges, and only in passing. By contrast, several GOP speakers are expected to do so, and a number of high-profile forums during convention week are focusing on court battles.

With several vacancies looming on the Supreme Court, Republicans of all stripes are galvanized by the desire to prevent a Democratic president working with a Democratic Congress from packing the high court.

The idea of a Justice Hillary Clinton, bandied about by many Democrats, is enough to get Republicans to close ranks. And the leaders of the GOP also think the future of the judiciary is a winning issue with voters.

“They [Democrats] are deathly afraid if this becomes an issue in the campaign,” Sen. Orrin Hatch, former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told The Examiner. “Conservatives don’t want judges who impose their own ideas of right and wrong. … And we know the American people are with us.”

Former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson, co-chairman of John McCain’s Justice Advisory Committee, said Barack Obama knows the decisions reached by liberal jurists are unpopular.

“Senator Obama says he will appoint justices like Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, and he opposed the confirmations of Chief Justice [John] Roberts and Justice [Samuel] Alito,” Olson said. “But on the two most important cases handed down this spring, in favor of the right to bear arms and against the death penalty for an individual who raped a child, his two favorites voted the opposite way of Obama’s public stance on both those issues — and he had to agree with Justice Roberts and Justice Alito.”

Former U.S. Sen. and Judiciary Committee member Mike DeWine of Ohio said Republicans have grown accustomed in Supreme Court nomination battles to making the case for a conservative judiciary to voters.

Republicans understand, he said, that “you fight it out in the battle of public opinion.”

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