Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens turns 87 on Friday. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently celebrated her 74th birthday.
Those two liberal stalwarts are desperately trying to hang on for at least another two years. Otherwise, President George W. Bush gets to replace them with conservative judges.
How important is that?
Wednesday's 5-4 ruling upholding the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act is a perfect example.
The court's four conservative justices, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, both Bush appointees, Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas, were joined by moderate Justice Anthony Kennedy to form the majority on the abortion vote.
The four liberals on the court — Stevens, Ginsburg, David Souter and Stephen Breyer — wanted to overturn the Congressional ban on partial birth abortion.
Wednesday's ruling was hailed as a landmark decision, almost as dramatic as the original Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.
Times have changed for abortion supporters.
As the Associated Press noted, "Gone from the court was Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, her place taken last year by Alito. She had been in a 5-4 majority that struck down a state law banning the controversial abortion procedure seven years ago. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who penned an impassioned dissent in that case, wrote Wednesday's opinion for a conservative majority allowing the first nationwide ban on an abortion procedure since the Roe v. Wade decision upholding abortion rights in 1973. The ruling sets the stage for additional restrictions on a woman's right to choose."
The court's liberal justices, in dissent, called the decision alarming and said it chipped away at abortion rights, AP writer Mark Sherman notes.
President Bush may have been emasculated by the mishandling of the Iraq War and his domestic agenda is in ruins thanks to incompetent staff, but there is one area where he can still leave a lasting legacy: Supreme Court nominees.
Replacing Ginsburg, who has deep and long-standing connections with the ACLU, would be a plum for the Bush presidency.
That's why the remaining two years of Bush's term are important. There are still advantages to being in the White House regardless of how low your approval numbers may be.