Interest groups are quick to judge
Just after learning that President Bush planned to nominate federal appeals-court Judge John Roberts Jr. for a seat on the Supreme Court...
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — Just after learning that President Bush planned to nominate federal appeals-court Judge John Roberts Jr. for a seat on the Supreme Court, NARAL Pro-Choice America sent an electronic action alert to its 800,000-person network, encouraging members to call their senators and talk to friends about their opposition.
The abortion-rights group also sent 30,000 e-mail messages to its activists around the country last night, outlining talking points explaining its opposition to Roberts and furnishing sample letters to be sent to local newspapers and background on the nominee. The group planned to follow that up today with calls to its 27 national affiliates, keeping them abreast of new information that emerges.
Conservative interest groups, meanwhile, voiced strong support for Roberts and began their campaign to support the nominee long before he was announced. Hours before Bush's announcement, Progress for America staff members were working in the 20th Street studios at Interface Media, preparing a biographical ad supporting the nomination that will be ready to air on cable TV in 24 to 48 hours.
"We understand the crucial importance of defining the nominee before the opposition has a chance to," said Jessica Boulanger, the group's director of communications, who said the group is prepared to spend $18 million or more. "The amount we spend will be dictated by how much the left puts into fighting the nominee."
Groups on both sides have spent years preparing for this moment. Their legal experts have been poring over the records of close to 20 potential nominees, and organizers have spent countless hours in planning meetings and on conference calls to hone their message. Also, they have amassed huge war chests to finance television, radio and print ads to define the nominee in the public's mind.
In recent years, both sides have clashed over some of Bush's choices for federal appeals courts, some of which were blocked by Senate Democrats. But activists on both sides called those minor skirmishes when compared with the battle they anticipate over the first Supreme Court nomination in 11 years.
Raising the stakes is that with the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who has been a swing vote on the court, many liberal activists fear — and conservatives hope — that Roberts' confirmation would move the court to the right.
People for the American Way: www.pfaw.org
American Center for Law and Justice: www.aclj.org
Supreme Court Nomination Blog: www.sctnomination.com
PubSub Government: www.pubsub.com/features/government/
"We're saddened that President Bush has chosen the politics of conflict and division over bipartisan consensus," said Wade Henderson, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.
At NARAL Pro-Choice America, President Nancy Keenan said the abortion-rights group was pushing members to urge senators to question the nominee hard on whether the landmark case Roe v. Wade should be overturned. That decision in 1973 made abortion legal.
Conservatives are urging Bush to fill the vacancy with a solid opponent of abortion. That would shift the court to the right on abortion and probably other social issues.
"The big question is whether they give abortion rights the guillotine or a straitjacket," American University law professor Jamin Raskin said. "The foundations of the court's abortion jurisprudence are up for grabs every time the court touches the issue."
Speculation that the president would choose U.S. appeals court Judge Edith Clement had been prominent on cable news networks earlier yesterday. Her name sparked vehement opposition from Operation Rescue, one of the most vocal organizations opposed to abortion. Of most concern to the group's president, Troy Newman: Clement once said the "Roe" decision had "settled" abortion law.
Officials at People for the American Way held conference calls with allies throughout the day, as speculation swirled about Bush's choice. After Bush's announcement, the liberal activist group activated a plan assembled years ago to mobilize opposition.
The group zipped e-mails to 400,000 members asking them to contact their senators and to scrutinize the nominee.
The Federalist Society, in turn, put together a list of conservative legal experts to advise the media on Roberts and the issues he will face.
"The experts are former Supreme Court clerks or otherwise have special expertise. ... We believe the experts can help contribute to and enlighten the public discussion," the organization's Web site said.
Jan LaRue, chief counsel to Concerned Women for America, said the conservative group is prepared to gear up a grass-roots campaign in support of Roberts if Democrats threaten to filibuster. "Everything I know tells me he meets the president's criteria very well; he clearly is in the mold of [Antonin] Scalia and [Clarence] Thomas," both conservative justices.
Material from Gannett News Service and The Associated Press
is included in this report.
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