05/13/2008 02:55 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Journey to the Past

The other shoe dropped last week. Senator McCain appeared before a group of students at Wake Forest and vowed to appoint judges "strictly faithful to the Constitution'' who would not engage in "the common and systemic abuse of our federal courts." As The New York Times noted, "The issue is of enormous importance to conservatives.''

Duh. The likelihood is that the next president is going to appoint one or more justices to the Court. Justice Stevens is 88, Justice Ginsburg is 75, and Justices Scalia and Kennedy are 72, ages when people sometimes, like, die. The appointments of Justices Roberts and Alito put conservatives one vote away from overturning Roe v. Wade. If McCain got to appoint the next justice, that would assure two things: first, that the states will create a hodgepodge of abortion laws, meaning that in many states, there will be a return to back-alley abortions; and second, arguing about abortion will assert itself as one of the most intense issues on the political agenda, coloring our politics and eclipsing the many 21st century questions we now think as vital.

This was the other shoe. The first shoe came in March, when the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff testified before Congress that the U.S military did not have adequate manpower to maintain our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan as presently constituted. The only way McCain could fulfill his pledge to maintain the present mission in Iraq ad infinitum would be to restore the draft.

Restoring the draft and restricting abortion rights. For years Grover Norquist and other GOP activists have expressed the desire to take America back to pre-New Deal days. Electing McCain would travel half the distance -- a return to those ugly, contentious, rancorous days of the late sixties and early seventies, when the draft and abortion split the nation.