Confirmation Conflagration
05-11-2009
Here is an item that caught my attention this morning. MSNBC’s First Read is reporting that the Obama Administration is now working from a shortlist of six candidates to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by Justice David Souter’s recently announced retirement from the bench. What is surprising to me is First Read’s suggestion that we keep our collective eye on Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano as an Obama favorite and potential frontrunner for the nomination.
 
While I am not an expert on judicial philosophy, I can say that in terms of confirmation strategy, there isn’t anyone on that shortlist whose selection would do more to polarize and politicize the process than Napolitano. This is not intended as a statement about her qualifications for the job, but simply a reflection of how quickly her relationship with Congressional Republicans has soured in the brief time she has held the DHS cabinet post. Whether it’s the furor created by the veterans-as-right-wing-extremists memo, or lingering doubts about her commitment to tightening border security, conservatives currently have Napolitano in the proverbial crosshairs.
 
I understand President Obama’s desire to look beyond the bench and academia for an outside-the-box nominee, but his team must know that anyone coming from the political world will likely ratchet up the bitter partisan warfare even beyond what we’ve come to expect for a typical nominee. Obama may nonetheless determine that such a choice is worth the pitched confirmation battle. And, if as First Read speculates, it’s Napolitano, then we could be in for a doozy.


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