Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens announced his retirement today, setting off a wave of speculation about who will take his place as resident liberal activist on the nation’s highest court. Expect Obama to seize upon this opportunity to pander to a minority group whose policy interests he has otherwise ignored by appointing someone capable of ticking multiple boxes on the standard Census oppression matrix.
Considering the Administration’s post-health care debt to various ideological interests, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the job go to someone who’s gay, a woman, or ideally both (with both Thomas and Sotomayor, the court is already at twice its capacity for racial minorities). Here’s the rundown on the most likely suspects:
Under serious consideration (the people who actually have a shot at confirmation):
Elena Kagan: The current solicitor general and former Harvard Law School dean is the consensus pick. She’s qualified, smart, and generally respected by lawmakers on both sides. Of course that means she’s not liberal enough for some critics. Her lack of a lengthy judicial track record worries others. But odds are, she’s the most likely to get the job. Bonus points: She may be a lesbian, depending on how that polls with likely voters.
Diane Wood: Currently a judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Wood is more liberal than Kagan or Garland and therefore likely to draw tougher opposition from Republicans during confirmation hearings. Wood’s reputation as a top-notch liberal thinker makes her a favorite of the intelligentsia, who are even willing to look past the fact she went to law school at the University of Texas so long as she stands in the back row during the class picture. The fact she’s a Chicago resident and former colleague of Obama’s at University of Chicago Law School can’t hurt either.
Merrick Garland: If Obama gets spooked by the Tea Parties this summer and decides to nominate an old white guy, Garland is the go-to pick. He’s an appeals court judge in D.C., which is like playing for the Yankees’ top farm team. You may have to wait a while for an opening, but when someone finally leaves you’re in the Show.
In the Mix (I think I’ve heard Jeffrey Toobin mention their names):
Janet Napolitano: The former Arizona governor and Secretary of DHS probably scuttled her chances when she claimed that “the system worked” following the Christmas Day attack in Detroit. On the other hand, the Department of Homeland Security is pretty good preparation if you’re looking for someone to liberally interpret the law.
Ken Salazar: The Secretary of the Interior and former Colorado Senator is Hispanic and therefore mentioned whenever any high-level government opens up. In reality, no chance.
The White House throws them a bone by appearing to check them out, but come on:
Jennifer Granholm: The Canadian-born Michigan governor and former Dating Game contestant’s name always pops up in these discussions despite her complete lack of legal achievement. Besides presiding over the most precipitous economic decline in the state’s history, Granholm spent four years as attorney general where she failed to produce any major prosecutions. But apparently her Harvard law degree and ability to get herself elected in a state devoid of political talent or leadership makes her qualified to interpret the Constitution. At least she’ll look purty in that black robe.
Pam Karlan: The Stanford law professor is an open lesbian and former assistant counsel at the NAACP legal defense and education fund. Even the prospect of her nomination is enough to cause lefties to break out into spontaneous drum circles.
Leah Ward Sears: Former Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, Sears is black, female, and friends with Clarence Thomas. The last point alone should be enough to keep her off the Court.