Will Obama resist impulses on SCOTUS pick?

Is President Barack Obama willing and able to resist his own impulses when it comes to picking a Supreme Court nominee?

I’ve been reading the first wave of articles published since news of Justice David Souter‘s retirement broke Friday. Conventional wisdom has already been established, it seems, as far as the short list.

The usual analysis is being offered on the politics of it all: he’ll want to pick a woman and preferably a minority; those in consideration are generally viewed as liberal, but he’ll want to be careful not to give Senate Republicans red meat to sink their teeth into; he should nominate someone with serious intellectual ability but also personal political skills and dynamism sufficient to seriously shape the direction of the court, etc.

Apply whatever label you may, but Obama is a thoroughly ideological, intensely committed, doctrinaire liberal. Add to this that his background is in the law. So he is a liberal who understands the power of the law and those who wield the powers of its interpretation, and thus there must be a tremendous personal impulse for him to nominate someone who can be counted on to move the court – the country – to the left. (Souter was on the left, so it wouldn’t be an immediate shift, but it would be a new, younger, liberal member).

So, the question is, will Obama, out of perceived political necessity (more on that later), resist his own impulse to nominate a strongly ideological liberal?

There is certainly much analysis that could be done here, but perhaps only time will tell.



Filed under Supreme Court

4 responses to “Will Obama resist impulses on SCOTUS pick?

  1. Chris Ikenberry

    The National Review has an ax to grind and I looked at how they came up with their rating system and it was designed to force an desireable outcome. Does the National Review have a single token liberal? Obama more liberal than Bernie Sanders and Russ Fiengold? What smell test that pass? What liberal would pick Summers and Geithner and listen to them?
    BTW, I havent seen a true conservative since Eisenhower left town. The ones since Goldwater have not been conservatives. No one has grown goverment and debt per gdp more so far the Reagan and Bush jr.

  2. Brian Johnson

    Stacey: Agreed. Any SCOTUS change will be interesting indeed, and among the most consequential of opportunities for Obama.

    Chris: Obama is not a liberal? Then why was he ranked the most liberal Senator of 2008 by the respected, independent National Journal?

    In your world, perhaps liberals do not exist. Liberals are moderate, conservatives are extremist, and so on and so forth. Is that how it is?

    Granted, “liberal” and “conservative” are insufficient political appellations, especially for SCOTUS, as you rightly note. But come, let’s be reasonable and acknowledge reality.

  3. Chris Ikenberry

    As a liberal I feel pretty comfortable in saying that Obama in not one (I wish he was). Also with these SCOTUS picks the terms liberal and conservative are not sufficiently precise terms to describe a SCOTUS pick. I think if your willing to push aside the hyperbole on the issue we will find that Obama’s pick will likely be big business friendly and progressive on social issues. I think no matter the pick however the congressional Republicans will do their obligatory grandstanding by trumping slippery slope and red herring arguments to try and activate their shrinking base. Compare this to the rolled over Democratic minority that put up no fight over Alito and Roberts.

  4. Stacey

    It will be interesting to see what happens…

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