April 25, 2010

WHICH IS WHAT THE RIGHT COULD NEVER GRASP REGARDING HARRIET MIERS:

The President and the Persuader: Obama doesn’t need a progressive on the court; he needs someone who can move it to the left. (John Heilemann, Apr 23, 2010, New York)

Of the top three candidates, Solicitor General Elena Kagan has attracted at once the most attention and criticism, mainly from the left, which worries that she could turn out to be a mirror-image David Souter—a supposed liberal who winds up pushing the high court to the right. Much discussion, too, has attended the trio’s other female: federal appellate judge Diane Wood, who is seen as the most progressive of the three but also the most likely to prove contentious, owing partly to her strong advocacy of abortion rights.

Concerning the third front-runner, however, there has been precious little hubbub. The candidate in question is Merrick Garland, a Bill Clinton appointee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Garland is well known, well respected, and tremendously well liked in Washington legal circles; even Republicans have nice things to say about him (which has both advantages and disadvantages, about which more shortly). Yet Garland also happens to possess certain qualities that are, shall we say, politically suboptimal. He is white. He is male. And he’s 57 years old—compared with, say, Kagan, who at 49 offers Obama a chance to leave his mark on the court for perhaps an additional decade.

Three strikes and Garland’s out, you say? Well, you may be right. But that would be a real shame—because the case for making him one of The Supremes is, in fact, compelling. For Obama, who is said by some of his advisers to be more keen on finding a liberalish version of John Roberts than a hard-left incarnation of Antonin Scalia, Garland’s juridical rigor, even temperament, and intellectual firepower should be attractive. And although he is more centrist than many of the other short-listers, his consensus-building skills might make him, paradoxically, the best progressive hope for staving off the court’s ever more conservative tilt.


Left and Right value fierce dissenting opinions more thann narrow majority ones.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 25, 2010 9:39 AM
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