Compare these two bits from the NY Times (of July 5th and 6th):
In an interview Tuesday in USA Today, President Bush said, "Al Gonzales is a great friend of mine. I'm the kind of person, when a friend gets attacked, I don't like it."
No less an expert than Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist suggested in a speech more than 20 years ago that any president's ability to pack the court with like-minded justices is inherently limited. While a new justice might feel "strongly loyal to the president who appointed him," Justice Rehnquist told a Minnesota law school audience in 1984, "institutional pressures" within the court itself tend to "weaken and diffuse the outside loyalties of any new appointee." He added that the court "is an institution far more dominated by centrifugal forces, pushing towards individuality and independence, than it is by centripetal forces pulling for hierarchical ordering and institutional unity."
Meanwhile, the FT's Patti Waldmeir today raises the important distinction between different kinds of conservative that Bush could nominate to the Court. That the president will nominate a conservative is not to be doubted, but that doesn't answer the central question of "what does it mean to be a conservative?". Going further, it seems that the various species of 'conservative' are likely to lead to opposing outcomes in concrete cases. Waldmeir mentions clashes between federal and state regulation as an example. Economic conservatives will favour business and its interest in uniform rules, while federalist-conservatives will want to promote state powers. As another example, I thought the recent case of Granholm v. Heald presented a clash between the conservative instinct to interpret as litterally as possible and the protection of states' rights (see the archives). I'd be interested in a systematic overview of such possible confrontations.