Saturday, April 10, 2010

What Will Obama Do To Avoid A Supreme Court Fight?

Justice Stevens has now announced his upcoming retirement from the Supreme Court, and commentators are speculating about whom President Obama will choose to replace him. Politico writer Glenn Thrush reports that Obama wants to avoid a "fight" with the Senate regarding Stevens' replacement.

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.

My Take
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.


RealityZone said...

To answer your question of what Obama will do.

He will represent and placate to the center-right Corporate America just as he has all along.
His agenda seems to be [go along to get along]. He will not fight, or even nominate a liberal leaning judge.

Caro said...

Poor, tired senators. I guess they think we pay them $170,000 a year plus huge benefits, and pay for their staffs and office expenses, . . .

. . . just so that they can be comfortable, and not be inconvenienced by having to fight for anything that benefits us lowlifes.

Carolyn Kay

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Carolyn - WE agree!

Moore & Moore, P.A. said...

What Caro said.

LETICIA said...

RZ: The "Obama is a liberal" meme should have gone the way of the dinosaur by now.

RealityZone said...

Unfortunately too many dems,-[wannabe liberals]- still believe he is the one.
A true left leaning, progressive liberal will never be allowed to lead this country.
The Corpotocracy [shadows behind the curtain] select, so that we may elect.

Myint said...

Wall Street Journal editorialized a few years ago during then President Bush's time that Viet Dinh (born 1968 in then South Vietnam) should be nominated for the Supreme Court. Why is not the so-called liberal media even Salon cannot suggest or even identify a 'liberal' who is around the same age as Viet Dinh and who is (not even quite ) to the 'left' as Viet Ding is to the right?

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