Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Election Chess

There's kind of a cynical article in today's Los Angeles Times today. James Oliphant, who is actually quite good at analyzing things going on in Washington, seems to be suggesting that the selection of a nominee to the US Supreme Court by the White House and the response to that nominee by the Senate will be guided more by the upcoming elections than by the nominee's fitness for the highest court in the land.

Imagine that.

...Republicans have a weapon they lacked last year when Sonia Sotomayor was tapped for the court. They have enough votes to conceivably mount a filibuster and block the nominee outright. But they'll have to decide whether to use that weapon now or wait until the Supreme Court stakes may even be higher.

For both sides, Justice John Paul Stevens' retirement announcement last week arrived at an inconvenient time. Neither side wants an ideological battle based on divisive social issues, such as gun control or abortion rights, with an election ahead. ...

...the GOP wants to avoid a fight over social issues, which often become the focus of Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

If Obama "picks a moderate, then they should stick to the anti-big government themes that seem to be working. But if the president picks a liberal, then they are going to have to change direction and go after social issues," said John G. Geer, a political science professor at Vanderbilt University.

That has risks. A fight over social issues could alienate the moderates the party is courting, he said.
[Emphasis added]

Frankly, I haven't seen much of that courting of moderates by the Republicans going on. That party has been too busy tacking rightward to appease the Tea Partiers. Still, the GOP has been working feverishly to dispel the meme of being merely "the party of NO," as the article points out.

The White House also has been surveying the election calculus when it comes to the nominee:

The White House will largely shape the nature of the contest by the nominee it selects.

A more moderate pick, such as federal appellate Judge Merrick Garland, a former prosecutor from Washington, could defuse a potential powder keg before it's lit. A more left-tilting one, such as law professor Pamela Karlan of Stanford University or Diane Wood, a federal appeals court judge in Chicago, could detonate it.

While I appreciate that the White House has to select a nominee that can be confirmed either with or without the fireworks, using the effect on the November elections as the main criterion for the selection is, well, odious, as odious as the GOP's calculated response based on the same criterion.

What appears to be all that concerns the people in Washington, DC is power, the getting of it and then the holding on to it. Power and money.

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