An audience member asked Bush who he would pick for any future opening. Bush answered:
- I would pick somebody who would not allow their personal opinion to get in the way of the law. I would pick somebody who would strictly interpret the Constitution of the United States.
... And so, I would pick people that would be strict constructionists.
Kerry's rejoinder mostly went after Bush's use of labels to make these kinds of decisions, which politically speaking may make a certain sense. But it missed the most significant point about Bush's position.
Voters need to understand just what Bush means when he talks about placing "strict constructionists" on the court. The "strict constructionists" who favor overturning Roe v. Wade, for example, do so on the basis of the argument that the right to privacy -- which forms the foundation of that ruling -- doesn't exist. You see, because this basic right is not explicitly spelled out in the Constitution, even though it is woven into its very fabric, these judicial activists of the conservative stripe claim that it's not innate to the rights Americans enjoy.
Taking away the right to privacy, of course, has ramifications well beyond abortion. And so when George Bush tells Americans that he intends to appoint these "strict constructionists" to the bench, they need to ask in return whether George Bush believes in the right to privacy.
Because the judges he wants to appoint don't. For most Americans -- who cherish their right to privacy -- that is a paramount consideration.
It may take some courage for Kerry to make this point. But the public will not be well served by having debates that dance around the real issues.