GOP Calls for Cooler Heads Regarding Gonzalez
Senior Republican leaders want grassroots conservatives to ease their criticisms of Alberto Gonzalez:
The White House and the Senate Republican leadership are pushing back against pressure from some of their conservative allies about the coming Supreme Court nomination, urging them to stop attacking Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales as a potential nominee and to tone down their talk of a culture war.
In a series of conference calls on Tuesday and over the last several days, Republican Senate aides encouraged conservative groups to avoid emphasizing the searing cultural issues that social conservatives see at the heart of the court fight, subjects like abortion, public support for religion and same-sex marriage, participants said.
Instead, these participants, who insisted on anonymity to avoid exclusion from future calls, said the aides – including Barbara Ledeen of the Senate Republican Conference and Eric Ueland, chief of staff to Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader – emphasized themes that had been tested in polls, including a need for a fair and dignified confirmation process.
Mr. Ueland acknowledged that he and others had been working almost since the vacancy occurred last Friday with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s resignation to persuade conservative activists to steer clear of divisive language.
“Every contact we have with these folks is ‘stay on message, stay on purpose,’ ” Mr. Ueland said. “The extremism of language, if there is to be any, should be demonstrably on the other side. The hysteria and the foaming at the mouth ought to come from the left.”
Clearly, Republicans hope to come across as the party of moderation. If liberals, such as the president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, appear dead set on opposing whatever candidate may emerge, then the White House will have a better chance of mobilizing public opinion around its cause, especially in the aftermath of the filibuster fiasco, when it insisted that Democrats were obstructing. But, with noise arising from the right, this strategy could become lost.
In addition, I sense the Bush administration seeking a “Sista Souljah” moment. It may want to show the populace that it’s standing up to enraged activists because:
- It aims to attract new voters, particularly Latinos;
- It plans to nominate a more conservative figure upon William Rehnquist’s retirement, so it must make concessionary gestures now; and
- It intends to push forward with controversial measures such as Social Security, thereby necessitating a centrist posture on a highly visible issue that everyone expects to be contentious.
These are just a few hypotheses. Surely, others exist, and they will become clearer in due time.