According to Thrush, avoiding a fight means picking a "bipartisan" nominee. He lists three "top-tier" prospects: Elena Kagan, Diane Wood and Merrick Garland. Thrush says that selecting Wood would "likely spark a serious battle" because she has liberal views regarding abortion. He describes Kagan and Garland, however, as noncontroversial choices.
Thrush also quotes Senator Diane Feinstein to support his conclusion that the Obama administration wants a bipartisan candidate. Fenstein says that:
The Senate is exhausted. . . .We need 60 votes. I think we need a candidate who is bipartisan, who has the credentials who is respected on both sides of the aisle is what we need to have a quick confirmation. . .I don’t think we need a fight that drags through the summer.Thrush reports that Rahm Emanuel will have a big role in the selection process. According to Thrush, Emanuel will take the pulse of the Senate and make sure that Obama chooses a candidate who does not provoke a serious fight.
It is difficult to imagine how a bipartisan candidate to the Supreme Court would look. Because Republicans have decided to oppose virtually everything that comes from the White House, I suspect that even moderate to conservative candidates like Kagan could generate passionate opposition.
Furthermore, picking candidates favored by Republicans would probably require Obama to compromise the values of his electoral base. Conservatives did not elect Obama; liberals did. Kagan appeals to Republicans because she shares some of their expansive views regarding the power of the Executive during war -- some of the very practices that civil libertarians and Obama himself criticized during the Bush administration.
Additionally, if bipartisanship means a moderate or conservative nominee, this would shift the ideological makeup of the court farther to the right, which Obama was not elected to do. Stevens is solidly a part of the liberal bloc on the Court. Picking someone to the right of him would represent a victory for Republicans. That Wood's views on abortion frightens conservatives who openly want to the Court to overturn Roe v. Wade should not dictate whether Obama picks her to replace Stevens.
Finally, I find it very odd to argue against fighting for a Supreme Court pick. Since 1967, Democrats have only appointed 3 justices to the Supreme Court, including Sonia Sotomayor. Supreme Court justices have lifetime tenure. They interpret the meaning of the Constitution. Their views influence the practice of law and the operation of government. Obama promised change. To accomplish change in an area this important requires -- and indeed, should inspire -- a fight.
Thrush reports that by avoiding a fight, Obama can focus on his domestic agenda. The Supreme Court, however, should constitute a central part of his domestic agenda.