Replacing Souter

Supreme Court justice David Souter announced his retirement this past week, meaning that Obama’s first justice nomination will come sooner than expected. Since there is also a decent chance that he will be appointing successors to Justices Ginsburg and Stevens, it seems Obama has a real chance to put his stamp on the Court.

My criteria for an SC justice are very simple. I want a flaming left-wing twenty-year old. I want a justice who sees an ocean of separation between church and state, who will be strong on defendant’s rights, who will be a zealous guardian of privacy rights, and will generall take a skeptical eye towards corporate interests. Constitutional philosophy? Don’t waste my time. That’s for law school bull sessions. I want someone who will vote the right way. And by the right way I mean the way I like.

The pundits are already weighing in on Obama’s known short-list candidates. Noteworthy in this regard is the truly disgusting hit piece written by Jeffrey Rosen, for The New Republic, about front-runner Sonia Sotomayor.

I have no particular opinion about the merits or lack thereof of Obama’s leading candidates. But I know bad journalism when I see it, and this piece is just another sad chapter in the declining fortunes of The New Republic

The article is entitled, “The Case Against Sotomayor.” Rosen’s case is mostly that a handful of anonymous sources say she is pretty dim. Rosen’s previous foray into this genre was to lecture liberals about what a great choice John Roberts was for Chief Justice, so he already has no credibility in this area.. Skip over his article and go straight to Glenn Greenwald’s smackdown not just of the piece itself, but of the way other media outlets are using it to paint the establishment view of Sotomayor. Here’s a taste:

Beyond all of that, there are enough glaring journalistic breaches in Rosen’s analysis — as well as in his prior behavior in leading the crusade on behalf of John Roberts and his preemptive worry that diversity will play a role in Obama’s pick — to call into serious question how honestly and accurately he passed along these disparagements of Sotomayor’s intellect and personality. But because it’s all anonymous, there’s no way to examine it, impose accountability on those who are opining, or to formulate any assessments about its reliability. Nonetheless, Rosen’s gossip has, in many places, already solidified as conventional wisdom about Sotomayor: if Obama selects her, it will mean that he has subordinated merit and intellect to gender and ethnic diversity.

Sotomayor’s decades of achievement in the face of overwhelming obstacles just gets dismissed with a few slothful, totally irresponsible smears from Rosen and his invisible friends. But that’s how “journalism” so often works — people are allowed to remain hidden while their views and assertions are uncritically amplified in the loudest venues and bestowed with an authoritative veneer that they absolutely do not merit.

Go read the whole thing.


  1. #1 Explicit Atheist
    May 5, 2009

    Jeffrey Rosen likes to go around asserting that establishments of monotheism are “de minimus” violations and therefore constitutional. For Jeffrey Rosen the constitutional principle appears to be majority rules provided that his religious belief matches the majorities belief. I dropped my subscription to The New Republic some time ago.

  2. #2 SLC
    May 6, 2009

    There have been a number of threads on Matthew Yglesias’ blog about Judge Sotomayer with numerous comments. Of most interest are comments by attorneys who have actually practiced in her courtroom or who have had direct interaction with her. They seem to be rather mixed with some calling her a brilliant legal scholar, others merely competent. There have also been questions raised relative to her judicial temperament. From what I can gather, there is far from unanimity there and in fact, they appear to mirror comments that appeared on the TNR blog thread authored by Mr. Rosen (even ignoring anything that Mr. Rosen said). Particularly, based on the Ricci case from New Haven, it would appear that, if President Obama nominates her, the congressional hearings will be quite contentious and there is no guarantee that 60 votes will be available to break a probable GOP filibuster, even if Franken is seated by that time.

    Given the presidents other commitments at this time, it doesn’t seem that a contentious confirmation hearing which has a very good chance of failing is in the interest of the administration.

    Of course, Prof. Rosenhouse must realize that anyone meeting his criteria for a Supreme Court seat would have about as much chance of being confirmed as he has of seeing the back of his own ear.

  3. #3 Bayesian Bouffant, FCD
    May 7, 2009

    as he has of seeing the back of his own ear.

    That could be accomplished easily with two mirrors, or with a camera.

  4. #4 JBL
    May 7, 2009

    @SLC: Republicans will throw a hissy fit about anyone Obama nominates, and won’t have the votes to block anyone. The nomination of Sotomayor might have “a very good chance of failing” in some universe, but it ain’t this one.

  5. #5 The_CeSeTh
    May 10, 2009


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