Monday, April 19, 2010

Justice Stevens's Replacement

From the looks of most of President Obama's potential picks to replace Justice John Paul Stevens, they are central casting for the Blue Dog Coalition.

Elena Kagan is considered the most liked of Obama's possible choices, particularly amongst Senate Republicans, but she is also a pro-corporate Solicitor General and an advocate of the broad executive powers of the presidency, even during the Bush era. During her confirmation hearings for Solicitor General, Kagan told the Senate "that someone suspected of helping finance Al Qaeda should be subject to battlefield law -- indefinite detention without a trial -- even if her were captured in a place like the Philippines rather than a physical battle zone." That someone like this would even be considered for the Supreme Court by President Obama is an exemplar of the moral cowardice of this administration. That she was confirmed as Solicitor General with any Republican support is the primary reason she is considered qualified for being on the Supreme Court, as her judicial background is nil. Notice, Sarah Palin has no problem with our President "palling around" with the likes of a possible Supreme Court Justice who thinks US citizens deemed to be terrorists should be subject to indefinite detention without trial. Just suggesting her name should be enough for any real progressive to be up in arms.

The next nominee is Merrick Garland, a leftover from the Clinton Administration, and like most of the other candidates is an Ivy Leaguer. The last member of the troika on the short list (and a non-Ivy Leaguer to boot) is Diane Wood. She is considered a "consensus builder" and being a 'moderate liberal', which is a nicer way of saying another moderate-conservative for the court. My favorite candidate mentioned, and as such a person considered less likely by the so-called respectable media for nomination, is ex-Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears. She has an extensive judicial record supporting free speech and civil liberties, something most of the other candidates either have remained silent on or supported the Bush administration. Even she is not perfect (her views on abortion have yet to be expressed, even after years of judicial experience), but Sears is head and shoulders above the collection of moderate to moderate-conservative nominees on the short list.

Of course, this will not stop the Republicans from accusing whoever Obama nominates of being a socialist (or judicial activist, which is basically the same thing to the right these days anyway) and racist against white people (with the extra kicker of being called a man hater if the nominee is female). If it turns out to be just another white guy, naturally, he will have the privilege of only being called a socialist/judicial activist who hates god. Such is the disconnect of the contemporary Republican Party that they think a healthcare bill which gives insurance companies a subsidy is evidence of Mao Zedong's return.

What we are losing with John Paul Stevens is one of the last genuinely progressive voices on the court. The chance of Obama replacing Stevens with another progressive seems remote. In fact, the President has already declared his intentions to make a "quick pick" to the Supreme Court, meaning someone amenable to the knee scrapers for the insurance lobby like Joe Lieberman, Bill Nelson, to say nothing of any member of the GOP.

This is Obama's way of saying we are getting a corporate friendly pick (i.e., one of the three members of the short list). I hope I am wrong. Like with the public option on the healthcare bill, and our troops remaining in Iraq, if Obama actually grows a spine and does something right for a change by selecting a progressive nominee to the Supreme Court (that is, Leah Ward Sears), I will offer to make a public apology to the White House. I do not anticipate being wrong about this, though.

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