CINCINNATI – President Bush reminded Americans Monday that his eight years of appointing conservative judges will affect the nation for decades, hoping to secure his legacy but also help fire up Republicans in must-win Ohio a month before the presidential election.
Bush said he has appointed more than one-third of all sitting federal judges, and that "few issues are more hotly debated or have a more lasting impact on our country."
He called on the Senate, in the final days of his presidency, to vote on filling 34 judicial vacancies in the federal circuit and district courts. Realistically speaking, there is no chance of that happening if Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama wins the White House, since his colleagues in the Senate would simply wait for him to be inaugurated and come up with his own list of nominees.
"If Democrats truly seek a more productive and cooperative relationship in Washington, then they have a perfect opportunity to prove it by giving these nominees the up-or-down vote they deserve," Bush said in remarks prepared for a speech before two conservative groups, the Ashbrook Center and the Federalist Society. The president's text was released in advance.
With his low poll ratings, Bush isn't exactly welcome at actual campaign rallies, appearing at the side of candidates. So indirect help like his speech here, and his fundraising efforts that landed the GOP $2.5 million over the last four days, are his strongest campaign tools.
Bush did not mention presidential rivals Obama and John McCain, the Republican nominee, but he singled out the two Supreme Court justices he nominated — John Roberts and Samuel Alito — as "outstanding judges." Obama voted against both of them.
"Our founders gave the judicial branch enormous power," Bush said. "It is the only branch of government whose officers are unelected. That means judges on the federal bench must exercise their power prudently — cautiously — you might even say, conservatively. And that means that the selection and confirmation of good judges should be a high priority for every American."
He spoke on the first Monday of October, which is dictated by law to be the beginning of the Supreme Court's new term. And his appearance came in Ohio, a crucial battleground state. No Republican has ever won the presidency without winning Ohio.