First, we have to admit: this is nothing new from the White House, be it from President Obama or his predecessors.
Unlike congressional seats or places in the Senate (unless, of course, you are from Chicago), the president does not usually have the bullying power of the pulpit that some of us believe the office holds. The president is quite able to influence policy and swing some votes (as we have seen most recently with the health care debate). However, there are plenty of examples from Capitol Hill where the president’s best intentions often fall prey to runaway leadership on The Hill (e.g., the initial stimulus package of 2009 was an embarrassing example of this as a pork-packed proposal) or election-year fears (e.g., any immigration reform proposed in 2010 may fall victim to this.)
In contrast, the Supreme Court selections are much more the president’s political playground.
It is with that freedom that President Obama placed personal experience with Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan over selecting a tenured judge as his latest choice for the highest court in the land. Although he must make the convincing argument in order to garner the votes for confirmation, Obama takes the same calculated risk that other presidents have done in the past in the hopes of affirming his viewpoint on the Constitution and our rule of law for at least one full generation—and, with Kagan’s age (50), probably two.
Despite the presidential precedent of personal privilege with the selection of Kagan, conservatives should be wary and careful during the confirmation process.
Although this comes across as a one-for-one swap of liberal-leaning jurists on the Supreme Court, the imprint that comes with President Obama’s second nominee may make conservatives pause in a way that they did not over the nomination process of now-Justice Sotomayor. Conservative may question President Obama’s motivations past the obvious personal ties—asking, “Was there not a liberal enough jurist currently on the bench for the president to choose, instead of selecting Kagan?”—in the process of attempting to foretell the scope of Kagan’s constitutional interpretations should she be confirmed.
Presidents generally play politics with what should be the purest branch of our government, so this is nothing new; (FDR even went as far as trying to change the makeup of the Supreme Court as well, only to be shut down in the process of putting his “imprint” on the Court.) However, at a time when the massive amount of government spending and presence in Americans’ lives has reached an apex after 10 years of expanding government, the Obama Imprint on the Supreme Court could be one that facilitates the continuation of making the United States a “socialized democracy” should the right mix of ideologues sit on the Court. The talk of Kagan’s reputation of embracing conservatives and liberals equally must be tempered with the reality that President Obama has yet to exhibit a strong desire to govern from the center politically, thus making the Kagan pick—more than anything else—resemble a move to impress his presidential imprint on a tabula rasa jurist that would, quite naturally, mirror his left-leaning views of the role of government.
Granted, it is President Obama’s choice, but it is up to the confirmation process to remember that any justice that would acquiesce to the president’s moves to expand government control to car companies and banks would also be key allies in the continued expansion of government’s scope in the arenas of health care, energy consumption, and national sovereignty—three areas where the Obama Administration has most rustled up criticism of promoting American socialism. Kagan’s academic and professional records may glisten with accomplishments, but her void of experiences as a practicing judge only reflects the looming influence of the game-changing shadow of the current administration on the dealings of our nation.
Some are calling the Kagan pick a “benign” selection that should pass without too much controversy. Others are calling her President Obama’s “Harriet Myers selection.” The issue with both analyses is that neither takes into full context the impact another Obama-led nominee—one without a judicial track record—can have on the definition of government at a time when the country is bursting at the seams with constitutional concerns after immigration protests, health care upheavals (and potential lawsuits), and bail-out heartburn. President Obama’s personal experience with Kagan does not outweigh our critical need to understand how she would rule as a Justice at this crucial time in American history, as so much is on the political table for us as a nation right now. Here’s to hoping that moderates and conservatives throughout the confirmation process keep this in mind with the tabula rasa nominee, remembering that her first impressions as a Supreme Court Justice may go a bit too far towards embodying this administration’s big government persona—and granting it a bit too much power in lieu of constitutional parameters.
Lenny McAllister is a syndicated political commentator, podcast co-host, and the author of the book, “Diary of a Mad Black PYC (Proud Young Conservative,)” purchased online at www.tinyurl.com/lennysdiary and www.amazon.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/lennyhhr and on Facebook at www.tinyurl.com/lennyfacebook .