IS THE WHITE HOUSE LOOKING FOR A FIGHT? REALLY?
A couple of weekends ago, I mocked Adam Liptak of The New York Times for asserting that a Janet Napolitano Supreme Court appointment was a possibility -- but now NBC News is suggesting that it's more than just a possibility:
According to a couple of sources in the know, there appears to be a working short list of about six names for President Obama's Supreme Court pick. The co-frontrunners (in no particular order): Diane Wood of the 7th Circuit, Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor of the 2nd Circuit, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Merrick Garland of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.... As for Napolitano, remember that she endorsed Obama early on (despite Emily's List pressure to do otherwise). And from people familiar with the president's thinking, he's been as impressed with Napolitano as anyone in his cabinet. They click. That matters....
I've listed some of the reasons Napolitano is hated and mocked by right-wingers; the #1 reason, obviously, is the Homeland Security Department report on right-wing extremists, for which she's blamed even though it was overseen by Bush administration holdovers at DHS. (Also see: "man-caused disasters"; a slip-up regarding Canada; and her disappointingly non-hysterical reaction to swine flu.)
Is Napolitano-hate just a crazy-base issue, or do elected Republicans care? Well, here's a story from last week about calls by Republicans such as John Boehner and Peter King for an investigation of the DHS report. Here are Michelle Bachmann and a fellow House Republican, John Carter of Texas, calling for Napolitano's resignation (and here's another GOP congresswoman also demanding resignation). Here's a "Fire Janet Napolitano" online petition from Grassfire.org, an Astroturf group linked to a well-connected Republican PR guy named Craig Shirley.
Given the mainstreaming of crazy talk in the GOP this year, I still say that any elected Republican who failed to fight to the death to block a Napolitano confirmation would be regarded as a traitorous RINO worthy of a fund-raising boycott and a primary challenge. I think that's true in a way it wouldn't quite be true for any other Court pick, even Sotomayor (or even an out lesbian).
I can't believe the Obama White House doesn't know this. That leads to believe that either the leakers aren't speaking for the administration or this is a head fake. Otherwise, it says to me that the White House wants a fight -- possibly to turn the whole Republican Party into Rush Limbaugh (because a Napolitano pick would be a perfect way of inducing the worst imaginable crazy talk from the whole party in this very public fight).
Now, see, if I were President Obama, that might be how I'd play this right now. But it just doesn't seem like his style. So I still don't believe she's going to be the pick, and I'll be truly shocked if she is.