Sunday, July 20, 2008

Memo to the next President -
here's your real legacy:

As that linked Washington Post article reminds us:
A Supreme Court nomination is perhaps the least predictable event in political life. A president never knows when a justice might decide to give up his or her lifetime appointment.
The parallel article is more explicit:

If John McCain were elected, the appointment of a conservative justice could immediately reshape the court. The senator from Arizona might be forced to temper his choice to accommodate confirmation by a solidly Democratic Senate, but his nominee would undoubtedly be far to the right of either Stevens or Ginsburg, potentially solidifying a five-member conservative majority. President Bush's appointments to court, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., are both relatively young and are expected to be fixtures for decades.

If Obama had the opportunity to make an appointment, it would be only the fourth nomination from a Democratic president in more than 40 years. And for activists on the left, it could signal the opportunity to create a new dynamic for the court.

"It is a court with no true liberal on it, the most conservative court in 75 years," said Geoffrey Stone, a law professor at the University of Chicago, where Obama once taught constitutional law. "What we call liberals on this court are moderates, or moderate liberals, if you want to get refined about it."

Stone notes, as he said Stevens has, that every justice on the current court with the exception of Ginsburg is more conservative than the justice he replaced -- a natural evolution given that seven of the nine were appointed by Republican presidents.

Alexis de Tocqueville propounded what has become a cliché (and a truism):

There is hardly a political question in the United States which does not sooner or later turn into a judicial one.
So, when we recall the 2000 Florida vote-farce; Gitmo, gender politics, freedom of information ..., yes, it does matter to us non-Americans.

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