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Richard Wolffe: Supreme Court Kingmaker

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babylonsister Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 08:37 AM
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Richard Wolffe: Supreme Court Kingmaker
http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-05-... /


Supreme Court Kingmaker

by Richard Wolffe


Greg Craignot Joe Biden, as earlier reports indicatedwill run the search for David Souter's replacement, Richard Wolffe reveals. That move opens a window into Obama's hands-on leadershipand the VP's role.


Supreme Court selections are not just another presidential ritual: they are the most immediate way to build a legacy. For better or worse, they are forever known as Reagan, Bush or Clinton justices, and they serve far longer than the presidents who pick them. But in Obamas case, with the early task of replacing Justice David Souter, the selection represents something else: a window into how he leads and wields power.

Obama made clear that he really wants judges who view the law less as an abstract legal or ideological debate, and more as a social tool that impacts real people far outside the courtroom. By December, halfway through his transition, he was already naming names for a Supreme Court shortlist.

Soon after his election victory in November, Obama began preparing for his first Supreme Court selection with a meticulous planning exercise. As if he and his team didnt have enough work with the monumental tasks of assembling a cabinet, fighting two wars or rescuing the economy, the transition period included detailed discussions about his Supreme Court shortlist. He managed a working group looking at judicial appointments, including those for the highest court in the land.

This was no cursory effort at checking boxes. He started by spelling out the kind of criteria he would apply to nominees, according to administration officials. Intellect and constitutional values may be vital. But Obama made clear that he really wants judges who view the law less as an abstract legal or ideological debate, and more as a social tool that impacts real people far outside the courtroom. By December, halfway through his transition, he was already naming names for a Supreme Court shortlist.

Once inside the White House, Obamas team continued to refine their shortlist, researching the candidates backgrounds and records. They fully expected a Supreme Court vacancy to emerge rapidly. But they also were meeting the demands of a president who used to teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago, and who wants to leave a lasting imprint on the courts, just as Reagan did. The result: the Obama White House has already sent three judicial nominees to the Senate, well ahead of the pace set by Clinton (whose first judicial pick emerged in August) and slightly ahead of Bush (who sent his first nominee in May). Obamas top-down approach gives context to who is running the Supreme Court selection. The shortlist work has been led by Greg Craig, White House counsel, not Vice-President Joe Biden, as some early reports suggested. With Craig running the Supreme Court selection process, Obama is leading the work out of the Oval Office.

Which is not to say that Joe Biden has no role in the Supreme Court nominees life. But there are two kinds of power inside the West Wing. One is decision power, which rests with the person who pulls the lever. The other is execution power, which rests with the people who turn those decisions into reality.

Bidens expertise in the Supreme Court is extensive, but he does not hold decision power, nor does he appear to have much more than a counselors role in the critical decision. When Biden said that he would be no Dick Cheney as vice-president, he clearly meant it.
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ClarkUSA Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 03:40 PM
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1. There's nothing like a liberal constitutional law prof from Chicago choosing the next SCOTUS...
Edited on Sat May-02-09 03:41 PM by ClarkUSA
:woohoo:

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