Various thoughts on current events with an emphasis on politics, legal issues, books, movies and whatever is on my mind. Emails can be sent to email@example.com; please put "blog comments" in the subject line.
[Yes, this is actually possible. Really. And, this is a good discussion on the Stevens nomination. Unelected President. If Scalia died in mid-November -- hey, the election campaign started & it's less than a year to go! -- would Republicans really be saying anything different? Overdoes the "Stevens was more conservative" point, but that was true too up to a point.]
There is ongoing coverage (NYT coverage today is behind a paywall & I already used up my month's articles ... so will check it out at the library) on the Garland nomination. The NYT articles the day after he was nominated, e.g., were quite interesting to me. For instance, his clerks are prime "feeder" material for the Supreme Court and it looks like Chief Justice John Roberts in particular is really impressed by the guy. I realize various conservatives take the guy as a turncoat, suggesting the level of extremism out there, but that alone suggests how he is a good fit. Another interesting tidbit (other than the Illinois connection plus a sort of "it's his time" deal) is his family connection to the governor of Iowa. This might matter in the Grassley re-election campaign. Maybe not, but it's intriguing.
I like this pick. Basically, Judge Merrick Garland comes out as an ideal choice for people like this who bemoan the state of judicial nominations these days. They are serious, right? Both liberals and conservatives are coming out praising his personality and skill-set. To the degree liberals might want someone more so or perhaps a woman/minority (to the degree a Jew is not one), yes, for a Scalia pick with a Republican Congress, you are going to have to compromise. Anyway, Obama picked a Latina, a non-judge Jewish woman and a white guy. That's not bad, along with various district and appellate judges in place thanks to Obama serving as a deep bench for the future.
On balance, the pick promotes the Democrats as sane government brand, is a somewhat amusing in your face move by Obama to shame Republicans (Sen. Hatch even tossed out the name earlier, saying "well, of course, he wouldn't do it"), is someone I think Obama himself likes and the other options probably wouldn't benefit the Democrats much more, if at all. It also isn't clear how much various actors (like Judge Watford) wanted to be mixed in this. I understand the desire for someone different, but we had that with the first two picks, and at this time, for the person being replaced, it makes a lot more sense. As a whole, Obama has done a good job with diversity. And, people keep on saying any candidate is doomed. Fine. This "settlement offer" discussion shows the result is a more liberal choice later.
If Obama choice someone else, I very well might find good things to say about it. But, the back-up option at the end, the person I figured early on he would choose, really doesn't seem that more ideal in hindsight. Hard to tell if the person would be more liberal. Yes, he is Indian-American, so that might help with minorities somewhat but not as much as a black nominee (a former prosecutor, who very well might not be that liberal on criminal justice issues); plus, even there, this one thing probably wouldn't help that much. Again, Garland is in certain ways ideal politically to troll Republicans, less so than others. Yes, he is younger, but it seems greedy -- Garland is likely to be in place for twenty years. That isn't enough?
Again as to the NYT, a ranking was made, and he was around the ideology of someone like Kagan. He might be more like Breyer on criminal justice matters, but on labor, environmental and other issues, he is said to be more liberal (generally speaking, not against one justice), so it balances out. Finally, you had various women judge options. Now, politically, don't know how much more that will help given Hillary Clinton is the nominee. Second, my choice there was Judge Kelly, but her resume is not overly comprehensive there. I think it would be ideal for her to spend some more time in the Court of Appeals. Still, in another situation, she or another woman judge might have been ideal. For this one, however, not as much. The value of sending out some sacrificial lamb into the buzzsaw also is at best mixed there and might even hurt the value of the candidate long term.
At the end of the day, I like this choice, particularly given the whole picture involved. The other two on the short list includes one that is seen as a pro-business type who very well might not excite the base and someone who very well might not be much more liberal on the bench that was controversial the last time he was up for nomination. Other than being black, he also has a standard background (prosecutor etc.), so not sure how much he should excite. This leaves various shall we say out of the box options in a context where a traditional one makes sense. And, even there, one or more of them had issues that made them less than ideal such as being a young district judge.
Anyway, I do hope he is confirmed. Some wish he is not, hoping for a better nominee later. That isn't a horrible result, but it would be nice really to have the process work. The final concern there is that a "safe choice" will serve as a negative precedent. Eh. Did past action deter Republican intransigence here? Each situation is different and Clinton picking a replacement of Ginsburg, Breyer or even Kennedy (who will suddenly get some Republican cred while some now just tar him as a liberal) in the middle of her term or whatever will be quite different.