Already one media report says the eight people smart enough to choose Mine That Bird to win the Kentucky Derby should be found and polled to see who they think President Barack Obama should nominate to the US Supreme Court. One thing is for sure. Speculating about who the nominee will be has become a parlor game, which should surprise no one. It began seconds after Justice David Souter announced he’d be stepping down. There are already lists of possibles, likely picks, and outside chances.
People shouldn’t underestimate this president’s capacity to surprise, either. He’s talked about a nominee’s need to have empathy with everyday Americans, and that’s a good thing. He’s carefully avoided saying the person he chooses should have particular positions on hot button issues like abortion or privacy rights. That’s just smart politics. One central question is whether he’ll nominate a woman, which is a potential minefield although it shouldn’t be.
After all, Laura Bush was on the record as being disappointed her husband didn’t nominate a woman to replace Sandra Day O’Connor in 2006. Currently the only woman on the high court is Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. So nominating a woman shouldn’t be seen as unusual, or even as identity politics, which is how some conservatives have already tried to frame it. There are several names being prominently mentioned, all of which would make great justices.
They include Diane Wood, who knows the president from when they both taught at the University of Chicago Law School. Elena Kagan is currently solicitor general, and a former dean of the Harvard Law School. If nominated, she’d be the first open lesbian on the Supreme Court.
Sonia Sotomayor has been touted as Obama’s most likely choice even before he became president. She’s from the Bronx, and currently sits on the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals. She’d be the first ever Latina to sit on the court . Another possible choice is the current governor of Michigan, Jennifer Granholm. She’s a former attorney general, which gives her the required legal chops for the job.
Others mentioned in media reports include Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Kathleen Sullivan, director of Stanford University’s Constitutional Law Center, Leah Ward Sears, the first black woman to serve as a state chief justice, and Cass Sunstein, appointed by the president to be regulatory czar.
President Obama could choose any one of these folks, or none. Republicans in the Senate who will decide the fate of the president’s choice seem resigned to the idea he won’t be picking a conservative, but their friends in media and the conservative echo chamber have reportedly drawn up a laundry list of problems with the most likely nominees. One thing is for sure. The close scrutiny of all things Obama will mean this nomination process will be very much out in the open. The outcome could signify a new awareness among Americans about the importance of the highest court in the land.
Since I didn’t bother handicapping the Derby, I feel comfortable speculating here. Based on what I know about her, and the politics of the moment, I’m going with Sonia Sotomayor. After all, she’s from the Bronx!
What about you? Who do you think President Obama will nominate to the Supreme Court?