When U.S. Justice Paul Stevens announced his retirement from the Supreme Court, I saw it as another opportunity for President Obama and Liberal Democrats, of which I’m one, to appoint another liberal Justice to the Supreme Court who would be there for at least a generation and would fight for the U.S. Constitution and liberal values, which is what I believe we got with Justice Sonia Sotomayor, especially since Democrats also control the Senate with a large nine-seat majority. It took President Bush 5 years to nominate his two Justices to the Supreme Court.
President George W. Bush had a right-wing Republican majority in the Senate, a five-seat majority smaller than Democrats of course, but President Bush was smart enough to appoint hard-core conservatives in John Roberts and Samuel Alito. The two appointees had bipartisan support, so the then Senate Democratic Leadership never really considered blocking Roberts or Alito. The difference for President Obama and other Liberals is that we gained an opportunity to appoint two Justices within the first year of President Obama’s presidency with a large Senate majority to go along with the White House.
I think the President did a very good job appointing as his first Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who is in her mid-fifties and has pretty much voted the way the President was expecting, being a reliable vote on the four-seat liberal wing of the Court. With the President’s second choice, I think he needs to appoint someone who can go toe to toe with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia, two Justices with whom I rarely if ever agree.
But they are two people whom I consider to have brilliant legal minds and have the right approach to making their legal decisions. I usually don’t agree with them, but you can make a credible case for why they believe what they believe and understand why they believe it. Also, it would be useful for the President to appoint a Justice who can persuade other Justices to vote with them, and of course I’m thinking of Justice Anthony Kennedy, the current swing vote on the Supreme Court.
E.J. Dionne said about Elena Kagan that she will be a reliable vote on the Liberal wing of the Supreme Court who can persuade conservative Justice Kennedy to vote with them, not always of course, but enough to make a difference. E.J. Dionne is a Washington progressive columnist and commentator who is also very objective and whose political judgement has my respect. He’s a partisan in the good sense, someone who states his views but then backs them up, and he’s not a political attack dog who attacks conservative Republicans just to attack them.
Elena Kagan also just turned 50 years old and could definitely serve 25-30 years on the Supreme Court if she stays healthy. I don’t know much about Elena Kagan, other than that she served for then Senator Joe Biden when he was Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Biden is a liberal Democrat for whom I have a lot of respect. Elena Kagan also served in the Clinton White House, again more liberal Democrats for whom I have a lot of respect.
In many ways, despite the bad plate of food (like a typical meal in solitary confinement in prison) that Barack Obama inherited as President, so far in some ways he’s lucky, because he has an opportunity to replace two liberals on the Supreme Court with two liberals as well as a Democratic controlled Senate in his first 2 years as President.