May 3, 2009

Replacing David the Dissenter

Naming a new Supreme Court Justice is a solemn event. Nothing else has the potential to define a presidency any more than the task now facing President Obama. As usual when there is a vacancy on the Supreme Court, the newswires are buzzing with speculation. The right wing blogs and talk shows are trumpeting with great certainty that the nominee will be a leftist of Karl Marx porportion, while the lefties are hoping for a tree-hugging, union loving, Prius driving, cat stroking, vegan. Neither will likely realize their predictions.

Justice Souter’s decision to retire may have been a bit of a surprise, but this administration did not make it to the White House without understanding that Obama would be nominating two, likely three, and possibly four Supreme Court justices. And in spite of an overwhelming foreign and domestic agenda, President Obama could not have hoped for better timing. Regardless of selection, acrimony and a lengthy confirmation battle should be expected, but the President has the political capital to gain confirmation of whomever he names.

Richard Samp, chief counsel of the conservative Washington Legal Foundation, seems to realize this, but optimistically predicts that the right will roll over. In an interview with CQ Magazine, Samp stated that the "Republicans will do their best to talk up the issues and at the end of the day get 30 or 35 votes against, but nobody's actually going to try to block the nominee."

That, I feel, is wishful thinking. The usual suspects from the Party of “NO” are already lining up to scuttle any possibility of a reasonable confirmation process. As I noted in a previous blog, Karl Rove has already started encouraging Republicans to block any nomination, based upon ideology and regardless of qualification. Rush, Sean and the boys won’t be far behind.

My guess is that Obama will select a nominee who is moderate, but with a history of slightly left-of-center opinions. There is too much going on in the world and in this country to allow for a prolonged confirmation fight, and this administration understands that it does not need the distraction. Neither do they want to alienate potential supporters who may be needed for upcoming battles.

The only potential hang-up to an uneventful confirmation might be in the administration’s vetting process; something they’ve had a little problem with in the recent past. This is something that cannot be afforded in this nomination. Team Obama must get it right the first time.

Obama will likely pick a tried and true sitting jurist with an established track record. The pick will certainly be female, likely Hispanic or black, and probably quite young. I will be very surprised if the nominee is over 50. In the next couple of days I will look at some of the potential nominees and discuss a little of their credentials.