Biden: You're darned right I'll nominate a black woman to SCOTUS ... in a month or so

It’s not as if there’s a rush, but Joe Biden made his pledge to nominate a black woman to the Supreme Court before taking office. Today he insisted that he will make good on that promise, claiming that such an appointment was “long overdue.” Like Allahpundit, I think the criticism of “affirmative action” is overblown and ignores previous representation efforts by presidents of both parties.

However, claiming it takes another four or five weeks to pull the trigger on a nomination more than a year after making that pledge makes the manipulation aspect a bit more, well, noticeable:

“It is my intention,” Biden says at the end of this clip, “to announce my decision before the end of February. … I have made no choice at this point.” One has to wonder why not, no? Biden’s allies have been publicly demanding Breyer’s retirement for months, as a means to ensure his replacement by Biden rather than a Republican successor. Biden himself made this a campaign issue and a key part of his pitch to black voters. Are we to believe that Biden hasn’t prepared for this at all, even with the one-week private notice Breyer provided the White House?

No one would have expected Biden to make the announcement in today’s press avail as Breyer officially announced his retirement, as that would have been extraordinarily rude to the retiring justice. However, now we’re supposed to buy that Biden and his team will only just now start doing “exhaustive” research on candidates within the already narrowed field for Biden’s first SCOTUS pick. If that’s true, it’s political incompetence. If it’s not true, then the next few weeks are nothing more than political theater.

Speaking of performance theater, Biden also amusingly found an opportunity to throw a much-needed bone to Kamala Harris. He cited Harris as some sort of sherpa based on her four years in the Senate, as though that would inform at all his own experience as Senate Judiciary Committee chair for eight years. Come on, man.

There certainly isn’t a rush to get a nominee in front of the Senate as Stephen Breyer will fill out the rest of this term. There’s a good political reason for Biden to act with a little more alacrity besides projecting competence, however. The longer this stretches out, the more that Biden’s allies will split on endorsements and make this into a political competition. James Clyburn got out of the gate early in making a public pitch for federal judge Melissa Childs and claiming she can win GOP support:

“I want us to make sure that it is a black woman, I want to make sure that it’s a woman that will get universal support. When I say universal, I mean bipartisan support,” Clyburn, the House majority whip, told CNN Wednesday night.

“And I know that Michelle Childs will have the support of several Republicans, including the two Republican senators from South Carolina,” he added, referring to Sens. Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham.

Clyburn told ABC News that he had talked with Scott and Graham and described both as “very high on Michelle Childs, and so I think that both of them would vote for her if her name were to be put in nomination.”

Add that name to Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson and California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger, and Biden can hardly afford to ignore Clyburn. The House Democrats’ whip practically resuscitated Biden’s presidential campaign in South Carolina. No doubt Clyburn will feel that Biden owes him and his state a solid, and he’s right, even if this is an inappropriate time to call in that particular chit.

That political aspect will only get worse as more names start getting into the mix — along with their sponsors. Stacey Abrams will likely start making a public pitch for her sister, federal district court judge Leslie Abrams Gardner, appointed by Barack Obama to both the bench and to her prior job as assistant US Attorney. Get ready for a deluge of competitors and their patrons over the next few weeks, and for disappointment in the end result for at least a few of them who might feel passionately about their choices. And that will call into question whether Biden actually chose based on objective qualifications rather than political considerations even apart from the obvious pander in his campaign promise.

Maybe Biden will surprise everyone by acting more decisively and showing better preparation for this entirely predictable leadership moment. Seems doubtful from this statement, though.