Marc Ambinder reviews the administration’s planning around the expected retirement of 89-year-old John Paul Stevens from the Supreme Court. His conclusion: “Obama’s not looking for a fight.”
If this is true, it’s hard to see why. Ambinder suggests that
Obama and his team are well aware that judicial confirmation battles almost always excite Republicans and confuse Democrats. They are also well aware of the particular political constraints imposed by the 2010 election.
This seems to me to be exactly backwards. The Republican base is already riled up to such a fever pitch that it’s impossible to get them more ready to go to the polls. So the task for the midterm election is to get the Democratic base riled up.
In a perfect world, you’d get the Democratic base riled up, with independents wondering why the Republicans are acting so crazy. That’s why I have suggested someone like former Stanford Law Dean Kathleen Sullivan, who is one of the leading constitutional scholars in the country, but is also openly gay. The right-wingers would go nuts, but watching Sullivan testify, true independents would wonder what all the fuss is about.
Now, of course, as Ambinder correctly notes, Obama himself is a student of the court, and has his own strong substantive ideas about what is required in a justice. But here, he can have his cake and eat it, too: there are lots of scholars, political figures, and jurists who would fill those credentials but also inspire the base.
This is one of those interesting times where politics is not a zero-sum game. The GOP base wants a fight, and so should Obama. As the President himself might say, Bring It.