Saturday, April 10, 2010


I find myself thinking that it might be a good idea for President Obama to nominate Hillary Clinton to the Supreme Court, but not for the reasons Ezra Klein and Emily Bazleton give. I don't really care all that much about the relative merits of picking a former legislator rather than a judge, and I can't say that Hillary would be a far better choice on the merits. I like the idea of a Hillary pick because I'm sick of the current freak show and the GOP bullying, and -- I can't believe I'm about to type this -- I think Hillary would be one of the least controversial candidates Obama could pick.

"Controversial," these days, means whatever Republicans en masse decide it means; they'll gin up a controversy on whatever grounds suit them about whoever they choose. I just think they're less likely to do so with Hillary Clinton because so much of their current electoral strategy involves appeals to the older, non-coastal cling-to-guns-and-religion demographic bloc Hillary won over in 2008 -- while being cheered on by the likes of Bill Kristol and Rush Limbaugh. I think a lot of those voters still love her; I think a GOP reversion to old-school Clinton-bashing would do serious harm to their November strategy. I think they know that, so I think they'd back off if she were picked. There might really not be a fight to the death. And wouldn't that be a relief?


I have to assume that the White House isn't going to go completely safe with this pick -- in other words, probably not this Garland guy. Two reasons: first, the White House knows Democratic seats will be lost in the Senate in November, so any pick needed in 2011 and 2012 will be a safer one. Beyond that, I think we have a sign that the White House is hoping for a break from Senate Republicans -- namely, the withdrawal of the nomination of Dawn Johnsen to head the Office of Legal Counsel. This happens at the exact moment Justice Stevens announces his resignation? It seems like the classic Obama request for a quid pro quo: we'll pull Johnsen and please don't be mean to us when we send up our Court pick. It's much like the climbdown on 9/11 trials, as a way of trying to reach a deal on closing Gitmo. And it's not clear at all that either gambit will work.

I'm guessing the pick will be Elena Kagan, and then it's just a question of how much insanity the right wants to inject into the process. I assume there'll be a lot of talk about her resistance to campus military recruiting on gay-rights grounds (and, I'm sure, there'll talk about the fact that gay journalists have described her as a quietly out lesbian). I assume Glenn Beck will pick up seemingly kind words about socialism in her senior thesis.

And then, who the hell knows, maybe her defense of Bushite anti-terror policies as Obama's solicitor general will lead to opposition from, asay, Russ Feingold.

I think it could be a horrible free-for-all. I think more than one conserva-Dem might join the GOP in serious opposition. Or the whole thing might go more like the Sotomayor confirmation. I think it's all up to the Republicans, and I can't tell what they think is in their best interests.

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