Law prof: Hey, maybe Obama should appoint himself to the Supreme Court

Well, okay, but only if we can carve out a special separation-of-powers loophole that would let him stay on as president. It’d be a shame to waste that much pure personal awesomeness on a bench job, no? In fact, there’s a Senate election coming up in Illinois. Might as well widen the loophole and let him go for the trifecta.

Is the left’s disappointment in The One so profound that they’re now looking for ways to lateral him out of the Oval Office?

Think about it. Though Obama has struggled to find his footing in the White House, his education, temperament and experience make him ideally suited to lead the liberal wing of the court, especially at a time when a narrow conservative majority seems increasingly intent on challenging progressive economic reforms for the first time since the New Deal. Obama is clearly eager to take on the four truly conservative justices — Samuel Alito, John Roberts, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas — as his State of the Union smackdown suggests. But as president, he’s constrained by that pesky separation of powers. So what better way to engage the fight than to join the bench?

It would be unusual, but not difficult, for Obama to get himself on the Supreme Court. He could nominate himself to replace John Paul Stevens, for example, or he could gamble and promise Hillary Rodham Clinton that he won’t run for reelection in 2012 in exchange for a pledge of appointment to the next vacancy…

It’s surprising but true that the least successful presidents are often the most judicious, while the most successful justices are the most pragmatic. Obama’s willingness to compromise and listen to opposing points of view, in other words, may hamper him in overhauling health care — public option, anyone? — but would make him an unusually effective leader on the Supreme Court. As Obama recognized on the campaign trail when he cited former chief justice and three-time California governor Earl Warren as his judicial hero, the most effective judicial leaders have been former politicians…

Warren’s success as chief justice came not so much from his ability to empathize with the downtrodden as from his ability to empathize with his colleagues. Because of his political skills, Warren achieved the kind of success that has eluded Roberts: He persuaded a fractious court to reach a unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark case striking down school segregation, by visiting the wavering justices one by one and persuading them to set aside their doubts. A majority of the justices on the court that decided Brown had a background in electoral politics; no justices on the Roberts court do. In a group of former law professors, prosecutors and trial judges, Obama would look like a political wizard.

If there’s one thing Obama’s proved in his first year, it’s his skill at consensus-building. Unless Jeffrey Rosen, the author, is anticipating imminent retirements among the more conservative justices, I don’t know how else to take this piece except as an argument that The One could totally charm Anthony Kennedy into voting liberal — which, in fairness, might well be true, but surely doesn’t take as much charisma as Obama has to accomplish. Given Kennedy’s leanings, Hillary could probably charm him into doing that. Hillary.

A question for my elders here: Has there ever been a Democratic president whom the left hasn’t wanted to see elevated to the Court? These fantasies of liberal political heartthrobs taking up the Brennan mantle and engaging in bloodsport with Scalia have been ever present during my adulthood, most often vis-a-vis Hillary but occasionally too with Billy Jeff (when they’re not dreaming of him being appointed UN Secretary-General). Did Jimmy Carter get this treatment too?

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Jazz Shaw 10:01 PM on June 07, 2023