And more than people generally think, it’s about the judges. John McCain is focusing squarely on the importance of judges.

Here are two takes on his speech today. This from the AP.

Republican John McCain criticized Democratic rival
Barack Obama for voting against John Roberts as U.S. chief justice,
reaching out to the Christian right on one of their chief concerns: the
proper role of judges in government.

Conservatives contend that federal judges have upset the
constitutional balance of power among the courts, the Congress and the
presidency by making far-reaching decisions, such as one in 2005 that
let cities seize people’s homes to make way for shopping malls.

“My nominees will understand that there are clear limits to the
scope of judicial power, and clear limits to the scope of federal
power,” McCain said Tuesday in a speech at Wake Forest University.

McCain, the eventual GOP nominee, promised to appoint judges in the
mold of Roberts and Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, saything they
would interpret the law strictly to curb the scope of their rulings.
While McCain didn’t mention abortion, the far right understands that
such nominees would be likely to limit or perhaps overturn the Roe v.
Wade decision that legalized abortion.

Why does the AP use the term “the far right” with reference to abortion?

McCain pointed out that Sen. Obama voted against confirming justices Roberts and Alito.

Obama’s campaign responded that McCain would pick judges
who represent a threat to abortion rights and to McCain’s own campaign
finance reform bill.

Both of which would make him far more attractive to the elusive conservative base.

Despite his rocky relations with the right, McCain’s
record on their top priorities — cultural issues like abortion — is
very conservative.

While he did say once in 1999 that Roe v. Wade should not be
overturned, that amounted to a blip in an otherwise unbroken record of
opposing abortion rights for women. McCain has repeatedly voted against
federal funding for abortion and has opposed federal Medicaid funds for
abortion even in cases of rape or incest.

McCain isn’t getting this kind of promotion even from some of the pro-life and Christian media.

The editors of the National Review, however, came out with a comprehensive look at the speech, and the issue.

In his speech at Wake Forest University, McCain
identified the battle over the proper role of the judiciary as “one of
the defining issues of this presidential election.” Defending the
Constitution’s separation of powers, he forcefully decried how the
decades-long “common and systematic abuse of our federal courts” by
judicial activists has usurped the power of the American people to
address policy questions through the democratic process.

McCain drew a line between his own commitment to judges who will
practice judicial restraint and Barack Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s
overt embrace of liberal judicial activism. Obama and Clinton, he
observed in understated fashion, “don’t seem to mind when fundamental
questions of social policy are preemptively decided by judges instead
of by the people and their elected representatives.”

The editors elaborate a little more on McCain’s likely picks for the Supreme Court, a critical issue in this election.

In terms of their “judicial ability, experience,
philosophy, and temperament,” McCain cited both Roberts and Alito as
“the model for my own nominees if that responsibility falls to me.”
And, in what might be called a no-more-Souters, no-more-Miers pledge,
he promised to nominate judicial candidates “with a proven record of
excellence in the law, and a proven commitment to judicial restraint” —
and not to rely on “a hunch, a hope, and a good first impression.”

The future direction of the Supreme Court is very much at stake in this November’s presidential election.

The gravity of that point cannot be overstated. It’s the future
direction of the nation and the fabric of the culture for generations
to come, outlasting the presidency of at least the next several
occupants of the White House.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....