Last week, confirmation hearings began for President George W. Bush’s nominee for the next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts.

Everyone knows that the Republican establishment plans to use the Supreme Court to eliminate Affirmative Action, curtail the rights of women and gays and circumvent those pesky civil liberties that defend people who disagree with them. However, their reactionary agenda goes much further.

This administration’s attitude toward big business has been demonstrated many times. Their close ties to Enron and their pouring of public money into Halliburton show their contempt for corporate ethics. They’ve demonstrated their willingness to manipulate the rules for the benefit of their corporate bosses by rewriting bankruptcy law to punish poor people while allowing Delta and Northwest, recipients of billions of dollars in Federal bail-outs, to default on their employee’s pensions. Now they want to stack the Supreme Court to ensure that their radical agenda will be enshrined in law for decades to come.

Their real goal is a return to the failed lassiez-faire economic policies that led to the Great Depression. They want to use the courts to subvert the democratic process and destroy the Federal government’s ability to regulate the economy. They want to eliminate environmental protections, the minimum wage, safety regulations, social security and worker’s compensation.

They want mega-corporations to compete with businesses in China and India by lowering wages and working conditions in the United States to those of the third world. They have such little belief in the ability of Americans to succeed in the global economy that the only choice they see is to engage in a destructive race to the bottom.

When Franklin Delano Roosevelt became President of the United States, the country had almost no industrial economy, almost no military and much of the nation had no access to electricity. At the time of his death, the United States had become the world’s foremost military and industrial power and millions of people had their lives improved by access to electrical power. President Roosevelt had revealed the incredible power of the Federal government’s ability to improve the nation’s economy and the lives of the American people.

The Republican Party has spent the last half century trying to deny this reality. They’ve tried to choke the government to death with massive deficits caused by tax cuts for the wealthy and extensive foreign entanglements. However, the American people have proven themselves too smart to fall for such cheap trickery. This is why the reactionary right has decided to change tactics.

They plan to use activist judges dedicated to an ill-conceived and illegitimate “strict” reading of the Constitution – as if the framers could have possibly foreseen all the changes that have led a small ex-colonial nation to become the most powerful country in the history of the world.

Bush has a chance to do lasting and devastating damage to the Supreme Court, the Federal government and the health of the nation.

This is why we must be vigilant in defense of the Constitution. The Senate cannot be a rubberstamp for the appointments of the President. They must defend the nation against the conspiracies of the wealthy criminal class.

McGaffey can be reached at

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