Nicholas Thompson's case for Chief Justice Scalia is persuasive, but a tad optimistic. While I agree that, given Scalia's predictability, intelligence, and symbolic value to the right, we'd benefit from a trade that put him in Rehnquist's place and filled his vacancy with a moderate, what in Bush's history or character makes Nick think such a trade is even within the realm of possibility? Is there any evidence that Bush is a political moderate held hostage by his association with the Christian Right? Is there any evidence that the Republican-held Senate won't vote to confirm a conservative nominee? Is there any evidence that Bush, having made this deal, wouldn't immediately renege on it or define "moderate" as arch-conservative?
Far as I can tell, there isn't. Now, I support nominating Scalia for Chief Justice. He's a lightning rod with questionable ethics and and reams of extremist public statements, all atop a singularly unappealing public persona. So let's have that confirmation fight, bloody him (and his nominators) with his "gay agenda" paranoia and abiding affection for duck hunting, and then use his tenure to spotlight the sort of neanderthals arrayed against social progress. But let's not pretend that Bush will engage in a pragmatic quid pro quo benefitting Senate Democrats. He's shown no interest in in such substantive bipartisanship. In fact, the only likely scenario where such a deal emerges is if Bush gets mauled, Hillarycare-like, by his Social Security games and Democrats retake the Senate in 2006. And while I'm all for trying, let's get our, ahem, ducks in a row before we start shooting them down.