Sunday, May 3, 2009

Obama on Souter's replacement

David Souter is retiring from the Supreme Court. Absolutely not surprising; he had not hired clerks for the fall term, which everything other justice had done. He is known to dislike Washington. Personally, I don't have strong feelings about Souter. I'm glad he turned out to be a liberal, and a source of frustration for conservatives, since he was nominated for the bench by Bush Sr. Ha!

President Obama read a statement at a press conference about finding a replacement for Souter. It was an unannounced appearance by the president, and you can tell that the press is suprised. Ha!

One thing that continually impresses me about Obama is how effortlessly he combines the casual and the imperial aspects of the presidency. He walks to the room, cracks a few jokes, makes everyone feel comfortable, and then reads a well-written and eloquent statement that touches on core American traditions and fundamental American values - the separation of powers, the rule of law - and yet is also detailed and specific. He recognizes the contributions of one man, and then generalizes about the lives of millions. This was obviously written by someone else, but you feel like he could have written it himself, so the words are authentic when he speaks them. He puts everyone at ease, but makes it clear that he is the one in command. It's a solemn moment, but he uses just the right amount of humor. He has incredible demands on his time, but he takes the ten minutes to do this. That's a way of honoring Souter - Obama takes his precious time to thank him for his service to the country. Obama walks several fine lines here. But it's not just that he's walking these fine lines - he chose to do so. He didn't have to read this announcement himself, but he decided it was worth his time. There are a couple of small risks - what is he doing wasting his time with this kind of statement, which could easily have just been released by Gibbs? Is it appropriate to make jokes about something this important? But Obama delivered it flawlessly. He laid the groundwork for a careful and considerate process of choosing the next Supreme Court justice. So if the Republicans fight, which they most certainly will, he already looks gracious in comparison.

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