Thursday, May 22, 2008

One incredibly bad idea: Hillary Clinton on the Supreme Court

There's been an idea floating around for the past few days that one way to resolve the Obama-Clinton tension would be for Obama to promise Clinton a seat on the Supreme Court. James Miller, in the WaPo, offers several reasons, including this one:

Unless the Supreme Court were to get mired in minuscule details of what constitutes universal health care, Obama could assume that he'd be pleased with most Clinton votes, certainly on major issues such as abortion.

I cannot begin to think of a worse idea for ending this primary season. First of all, Hillary did not pass the DC bar exam back in the 70's; passing the bar exam, i.e. being legally entitled to practice law in the District of Columbia, would seem to be a prerequisite for sitting on the Supreme Court.

Second, it's an absurdly crass solution to a political problem. Obama has a reputation for integrity and class; this would immediately tarnish that reputation, particularly among moderate Republicans, who are otherwise very open to Obama.

Third, it would politicize the Supreme Court, which is exactly what this country DOES NOT NEED at this point. Bush's attempt to put Harriet Miers on the Court was not a smart move, but at least no one knew who she was. Many people disagree with various members of the Court, but at least those members have arrived at their positions through established legal channels. I disagree with Antonin Scalia on almost everything, but there's no question that he is intellectually qualified to sit on the Supreme Court. He's not making the decisions that he does because he has political ties to a specific political group. At the end of the day, I understand that part of the price of living in a democracy is that judges will occasionally make decisions that I disagree with. But then they will also make decisions that I do agree with. That's the deal.

But Hillary would be constantly subject to the criticism that she is making decisions for political reasons, not legal ones. Her opponents would claim that she was making decisions because she wanted to advance a cause that she is or was affiliated with.

It would be about the most polarizing move Obama could make. I suspect that this idea has been the subject of much laughter in the Obama camp.

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