Wow, indeed. When this cycle began, Hillary Clinton tried running to her Left and away from Barack Obama and his administration, hoping to pre-empt Bernie Sanders and co-opt the progressive populism that has seized the Democratic Party’s primary fight. Clearly that effort has not succeeded, so Hillary appears to have decided to offer herself as the third Obama term as well as the third Clinton term. In fact, she went so far Tuesday night as to declare herself wowed by a suggestion that she keep Obama in Washington for a lifetime — as a member of the Supreme Court:
At a campaign event in Decorah, Iowa, a voter asked the Democratic presidential contender if she would consider making such a move.
“Wow, what a great idea. Nobody has ever suggested that to me. Wow, I love that, wow,” the Democratic presidential candidate responded. “He may have a few other things to do, but I tell you that’s a great idea.”
Clinton acknowledged that the next president might have the opportunity to appoint several Supreme Court justices. Nearly half of the court — four of the nine justices — has served on it for 20 to 30 years and are either over the age of 80 or approaching it. …
“He’s brilliant and he can set forth an argument and he was a law professor. He’s got all the credentials,” Clinton added about Mr. Obama’s qualifications. “Now, we do have to get a Democratic Senate to get him confirmed, so you’re going to have to help me on that.”
Again, wow, but not so much on the merits as on the politics. Hillary really wants to tie herself completely to an incumbent president stuck in the mid-40s after eight years in office? And so much so that she wants to perpetuate his grip on the levers of power? Until he got disbarred for perjury and obstruction of justice, her husband had a better argument for a Supreme Court nomination in an Al Gore administration, at least on the politics of the idea.
Still, this serves as a very clear reminder of the stakes in the upcoming election, as I write in my column for The Fiscal Times today. That’s even more true as Democrats have an advantage in the Senate races in 2016, and could very well recapture control of the chamber for 2017:
Four of the current justices are over 70 years of age, two from each wing of the court. The next president will almost certainly need to make one or more nominations to the nation’s top court, and the Senate will have to confirm those nominees. The lifetime appointments may provide the most significant legacy a president can create, one that keeps adding to their public role for decades after leaving office.
Obama has already established his legacy on the court through the appointments of Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. The two can be expected to engage in an activist policy role over the next several years, attempting to extend decades of precedent in which the court has encroached on legislative turf.
No stranger to executive action that treads on Congressional prerogative, Obama would be only too glad to pursue his policy goals in the same manner. But even if Clinton thought better of putting Obama on the court, it is clear that she will appoint judges and justices of the same ideological and activist bent.
Let this serve as a wake-up call to those who wish to see Obama enjoy a long and happy retirement from power and reverse as many of his policies as possible in the next four years. It will take a unity that has so far eluded Republicans in this cycle to succeed in this mission. Anti-establishment populism has its place, but complete nihilism on the Right will result in what they oppose most.
By the way, Obama has been asked about his SCOTUS ambitions, but has mostly shrugged it off as “too monastic” for his tastes:
“I love the law, intellectually,” Obama continued. “I love nutting out these problems, wrestling with these arguments. I love teaching. I miss the classroom and engaging with students. But I think being a justice is a little bit too monastic for me. Particularly after having spent six years and what will be eight years in this bubble, I think I need to get outside a little bit more.”
He seemed even more certain in November 2015, when he told sports writer Bill Simmons, “I don’t have the temperament to sit in relative solitude and just opine and write from the bench. I want to be in the action a little bit more.”
I’d advise not giving Hillary Clinton the chance.