“What is the difference between a New York City garment district bookkeeper and a Supreme Court Justice? Just one generation.”
The political brawl over the replacement for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who announced her resignation last week, could be the most bitter since Justice Clarence Thomas' 1991 confirmation battle.
And that free-for-all, which liberals and conservatives alike predict could be the "mother of all battles," could leave many Jewish groups in an awkward position.
The tenor of the debate was evident within hours of O'Connor's surprise announcement. Christian conservatives, calling in their chits from last year's presidential election, demanded that President Bush fulfill his promise to nominate judges like his favorites, Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas. Just as sternly, groups associated with women's rights, civil rights and the separation of church and state warned of pitched battles ahead if the president doesn't make a "mainstream" choice.
Advocacy groups immediately hit the airwaves to sway public opinion. The nomination fight will almost certainly be the most expensive ever.
The modern-day legal guidelines on how religion fits into the American public square have largely been the creation of one woman: Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
The U.S. Supreme Court has been fiercely divided for a quarter-century, with four justices opposing religious images in the public square and all federal money to religious organizations, and with four allowing for both.
At the center has been O'Connor, the first woman on the high court, who announced her resignation last week.