W: "Find me another Roberts"
Newsweek claims this is W's charge to his troops.
If that's really the plan, there's only one choice: Judge Michael McConnell, the 50-year old former University of Chicago law professor. It has often been remarked that the Roberts nomination set the bar very high for the next Supreme Court nomination. And the only candidate out there who is really up to that standard is McConnell.
1. Intellectually, McConnell towers over the other possible nominees. I don't want to be hard on the other distinguished names out there, but place their CVs next to McConnell, and none of them holds a candle to him: grad of UChicago law school, clerk to US Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, Reagan Justice Department assistant to the solicitor general 1983-85, then later given an endowed chair at UChicago law school (!). [For non-academics, this is the triple-crown: a) tenure; b) an endowed chair; c) UChicago, which is easily the legal equal of Harvard/Yale.]
2. He will dazzle at the hearings: a skilled advocate before the US Supreme Court winning 9 of his 11 cases; if you want an example of him showing a Roberts-esque ability to run rings around the Senate Judiciary Committe, see his testimony here on Roe v. Wade.
3. He is a classic University of Chicago economic conservative with several editorials for the Wall Street Journal, and is a card-carrying member of the First Things crowd.
4. He is on record critiqueing Roe v. Wade, and signed a petition calling for a pro-life constitutional amendment.
5. And yet: he is affable, open-minded, and has even better bi-partisan support going into the hearings than Roberts had: witness the support of over 300 law professors, mostly Democrats. It's not every card-carrying conservative who can charm hard-line legal liberals like Cass Sunstein and Lawrence Tribe into supporting him. As someone who opposed the impeachment of Bill Clinton and sharply criticized Bush v. Gore, his critics will have no success painting him as an ideologue.
McConnell then gives President Bush exactly the virtues he got in the Roberts nomination: his conservative credentials are better than Roberts (who never opposed Roe v. Wade in print); his support among liberals and Democrats is stronger; his intellectual/judicial credentials are at Roberts-level or better.
He is, of course, a white male. But if the choice is for excellence over political correctness, McConnell is the path to pick.