Within this small pool of extremely well-qualified candidates, Obama should pick the person he thinks will do the best work for us on the Court. There will be a big fight no matter what, because there is too much to be gained from using the confirmation as a political battlefield. It's a shameful business to exclude candidates because they have had to decide abortion cases. We are impoverished if the more experienced jurists are passed over precisely because of their experience, because they have written opinions that we can read and argue about. Obama and the Democrats should have the nerve to defend the judicial decisions we call liberal.
"When President Ford was faced with a Supreme Court vacancy shortly after the nation was still recovering from the Watergate scandal, he wanted a nominee who was brilliant" and committed to the law, Obama said, hailing Stevens as a justice who "has stood as an impartial guardian of the law . . . with fidelity and restraint. . . . He will turn 90 this month, but he leaves this position at the top of his game."I find those 2 paragraphs, taken together, pretty amusing. Was Justice Stevens a brilliant, impartial, restrained, faithful guardian of the rule of law or the loudest voice of the left wing?
On paper, it would seem that this would be Obama's last chance to appoint an assertively liberal choice to replace Stevens, who emerged as the loudest voice of the court's left wing. Democrats hold a large majority in the Senate. Next year, their grip on the chamber could be much more tenuous.
ADDED: Tobin Harshaw does a great job of collecting a lot of opinion about the various frontrunners. Excerpt:
Judicial experience may not be the only intangible working against Kagan. Another may be that she’s Jewish. “Almost nobody has noticed that when Justice Stevens retires, it is entirely possible that there will be no Protestant justices on the court for the first time ever,” writes NPR’s Nina Totenberg. “Let’s face it: This is a radioactive subject. As Jeff Shesol, author of the critically acclaimed new book Supreme Power, puts it, ‘religion is the third rail of Supreme Court politics. It’s not something that’s talked about in polite company.’ And although Shesol notes that privately a lot of people remark about the surprising fact that there are so many Catholics on the Supreme Court, this is not a subject that people openly discuss. … Only seven Jews have ever served, and two of them are there now. Depending on the Stevens replacement, there may be no Protestants left on the court at all in a majority Protestant nation where, for decades and generations, all of the justices were Protestant.”This is why my money is on Wood.