The Supreme Court

Judge Sotomayor did not experience a meltdown during her confirmation hearings, so the Senate will confirm her, and she will be the newest Supreme Court Justice.

As far as I can tell, she will be a solid vote for the moderate-liberal wing of the bench.  We will have four justices (Thomas, Scalia, Alito, and Roberts) who are decidedly conservative by historical standards, one oddball-moderate (Kennedy), and four who are moderate-liberals (Breyer, Stevens, Ginsburg, and a wise Latina).

That sounds lop-sided.

It can’t be easy to select a nominee for the Court.  President Obama was (appropriately) strongly compelled to pick a woman; his Chief of Staff was constantly reminding him of the political benefit of nominating a Latina; his lawyers were looking for the Dumbledore of the law world; his staff desperately desired a smooth confirmation so they could apply their energy to health care and environmental legislation over the summer.  And, since Obama likes to consider himself a pragmatic left-of-center figure, he probably ruled out candidates for being too aggresively liberal.

Why?  Before Sotomayor’s seat (knock on wood) belonged to Justice Souter, Bill Brennan occupied it.  He and Justice Marshall were Scalias for the far left.  Then came Souter, and there went the last liberal justice we’ve had.

Obama understandably wants his nominee to share his points of view.  If he got to replace every sitting justice on the Court, one at a time, he might select nine nominees who were all moderate liberals.  I hope, though, that he would give some thought to balancing the Court’s ideological spectrum.  Why can’t he nominate a fiery liberal and explain that while he may not agree with everything in which he or she believes, he thinks the country is best served when intellectual vitality from all points of view flourishes on the highest court in the land?

If another moderate-liberal justice retires before his term(s) expire, he should nominate Pam Karlan to fill the vacancy.  She is a professor at Stanford Law School.  She happens to be gay (diversity!).

She is:

  • A highly gifted writer
  • Witty (so is Scalia)
  • A Genius
  • Only 50 years old

Here she is discussing the Court’s supporting a ban on late-term abortions:

Wouldn’t that be a fun confirmation hearing?

Other people like her, too:

http://www.law.upenn.edu/blogs/dskeel/archives/2009/05/pam_karlan_and_souters_seat–s.html

http://thetarnation.blogspot.com/2009/05/pam-karlan-for-souters-seat.html

The Toothpaste Is Out of the Tube

Well, another one bites the dust.  John Edwards had an affair in 2006 with a campaign worker.  The situation is shameful and shows once again that our leaders do not live on a higher moral plane than the rest of us.

Is that a surprise to anyone?  Philandering politicians are nothing new.  Spitzer, Vitter, Craig, Clinton, Hart, Gingrich, Dole, McCain…public officials have probably been lying about sex since the birth of the republic.  So, why is it relevant?

FDR and JFK both cheated on their wives.  They still managed to be remarkably talented presidents, and FDR is usually ranked among historians’ top three chief executives.  Despite their common character defect, they shared an ability to inspire and comfort the public.  Without their gifts, we might have never landed at Normandy or on the moon.

Since then, though, politics has become equally oriented around personality as well as policy.  When we shop for leaders and representatives, their character and moral fiber are now crucial selection criteria.  It is as important for a would-be politician to appear to be a devoted father/mother/husband/wife as it is for him or her to be well-versed in policy.  Their private lives and public roles are now merged into one package.  A CEO or network anchor would probably not be fired for committing adultery, but we seem to demand moral perfection from anyone who would serve in government.

Maybe Gary Hart could have been elected president in 1988 if the media and the public had decided that his personal behavior was irrelevant.  Maybe he might have made a bold and noteworthy president.  Maybe Bill Clinton could have accomplished more in his final years in office if that same standard had been applied to him.  Politics is a job, and in the past even moral deviants have been able to make their mark in it.

But now is a different time.  Choosing to look the other way is impossible and impractical.  Even if most media outlets choose to give a man such as Edwards the benefit of the doubt and a little privacy, The National Enquirerwill leap to fill the vacuum.  The toothpaste is out of the tube, and for the foreseeable future, no politician is entitled to privacy.

Irresponsible Speculation

Within a month (God willing), we’ll all know who the vice-presidential nominees are.  Until then, though, we may as well guess/dream/feverishly hope.

FOR THE DEMOCRATIC TICKET:

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D-DE): Probably the strongest choice.  He has been a senator since the dawn of man and is now the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, so he is (and will be recognized as) thoroughly qualified.  He showed in the primaries that he can be an energetic, gutsy, and straight-shooting campaigner who oozes gravitas.  He’s not afraid to throw a punch and is thus well-suited to play the role of attack dog to Obama’s “virtuous statesman.”  He can put to death that idiotic right-wing attack about Obama not holding any hearings for his F.R. subcommittee because, as chair, he can quickly say that Obama wasn’t supposed to hold any such hearings.  The downside is that every story written about his selection would include a variation of this phrase: “Senator Biden will be able to compensate nicely for Senator Obama’s relative lack of experience.”  Still, I think the cat’s out of the bag on that already.

REP. CHET EDWARDS (D-TX): Yes, this choice would have everyone under the sun reaching for their copy of the Almanac of American Politicsto figure out who he was.  Yes, at least 10% of voting Americans would think John Edwards was on the ticket.  But he would still be a refreshing and intriguing choice.  He’s currently serving his ninth term in a highly conservative district, and he’s been reelected through savvy campaigning and positive branding as an independent-minded, military-loving Bubba of a Democrat (he’s been a leader on veterens’ issues).  He’d add to Obama’s post-partisan aura, and his resume is substantial enough to keep the ticket credible without making it too bottom-heavy, as Biden might.  Plus, he’s Bush’s congressman.

SEN. EVAN BAYH (D-IN): The junior senator from Indiana is a tad drab, but let’s face it, it wouldn’t matter.  Bayh has the whole package: executive experience, kinda-sorta-foreign policy credibility from his Senate tenure, and the ability to clinch a new swing state, Indiana.  He looks (and is) young, so the media will favorably compare the ticket to the halycon days of Clinton-Gore.  He’d make a thoroughly reliable choice.

FOR THAT OTHER TICKET:

GOV. TIM PAWLENTY (R-MN): The press eventually got bored of speculating about him, but after being spotted in high-level huddles at the McCain HQ, he is certainly still a live possibility.  He’s a Washington outsider who could come across as a credible economic populist; he yearns to bring about “Sam’s Club Conservatism” to attract working class votes.  McCain knows very little about economics, but the pundisphere is too eager to suggest former business executives such as Mitt Romney and Carly Fiorina to compensate as running mates.  CEOs are the villains of today’s economy, and rather than putting one on the ticket, McCain should go with someone who can appear to authentically feel blue-collar workers’ pain.  That ticket could very well attract the “Reagan Democrats” whom Hillary Clinton was so eager to bring on board.

SEN. LINDSAY GRAHAM (R-SC):  This might actually happen if McCain gets sick and tired of his staff constantly stressing the minor distinctions between and pluses and minuses of each of his options.  Graham is one of his closer friends and is a credible enough senator with enough gray hairs to make him look wise.  A McCain-Graham ticket would try very hard to hit voters over the head with its cumulative experience in government.  If personal chemistry becomes McCain’s number one criteria, Graham could be the dark horse choice.

REP. TOM TANCREDO (CO): If only.