GOP Calls for Cooler Heads Regarding Gonzalez

Senior Republican leaders want grassroots conservatives to ease their criticisms of Alberto Gonzalez:

G.O.P. Asks Conservative Allies to Cool Rhetoric Over the Court (NYT | RSS)

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.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, Religion, , , , , , , , ,
Robert Garcia Tagorda
About Robert Garcia Tagorda
Robert blogged prolifically at OTB from November 2004 to August 2005, when career demands took him in a different direction. He graduated summa cum laude from Claremont McKenna College with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics and earned his Master in Public Policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.


  1. anjin-san says:

    A note for Rove:

    “Just as the President has a right to nominate without assigning reasons, so has the Senate a right to dissent without giving theirs.”

    — President George Washington, quoted in The Papers of George Washington, p. 401.

  2. bryan says:

    I was always under the impression that liberals would oppose gonzales because of the “torture memos” during his time as atty gen.

  3. Lee says:

    A Gonzales appointment would mean balancing the Democratic opposition to gun rights with a GOP opposition to gun rights. Screw ’em all.

  4. carpeicthus says:

    Most of the opposition is smoke and mirrors to make Gonzales look like a moderate. At least from the leaders; I’m sure the flock is following, flock-like.

  5. It is time to admit it to ourselves:
    Bush is not a conservative. He is a moderate.The fact that liberals scream the names “Bush” and “Hitler” in the same sentence every chance they get means nothing.
    Bush the younger is a part of a dying breed: a good old-fashioned northeast liberal Republican, like his father. There used to be plenty of them. Indeed, to be a Northeastern Republican was to be liberal almost by definition: think Rockefeller, Edward Brooke, Javits, (sorry if these names are unfamiliar to younger folks). Lincoln Chafee and Christine Whitman are among the last of them.

    The Bushes, senior and junior, are part of this tradition.Bush senior, please recall, was president only because Reagan selected him as his running mate as a liberal ticket-balancer. Bush 43 was transplanted to Texas, but educated with the Brahmins of the Northeast. He only seems like he should be conservative because of: (1) the Texas twang; (2) the Democratic party’s movement so far left that even liberal Republicans are conservative by comparison; and(3) the Iraq war. But look at this record: he’s for open borders, he’s never once vetoed a spending bill, he teamed up with the despicable Ted Kennedy on an Education Bill after abandoning vouchers, the only conservative part of the original proposal, and,well, I could go on, but I don’t want to try your patience.
    Stop being surprised that Bush doesn’t fight for conservative causes. He doesn’t believe in them.

  6. Eaglet says:

    Given that Bush supported every deficit spending increase that came his way, often as a result of his initiation, “moderate” is too generous a description for Bush’s practical ideology.

  7. Brock Pemberton says:

    When George W. needed campaign money, I opened my wallet. But since he floated his friend Alberto Gonzalez, he has essentially said to his base, “Shut up.”
    I may never shut my mouth, but if another moderate gets on the Supreme Court, I’ll shut my wallet to the RNC.