Why There Is No Supreme Court "Fight."
The crawl on MSNBC -- yes, I'm sitting in front of the teevee when I should be at the beach, I fail at vacation -- just informed me of some "BREAKING" news. Mitt Romney - who has literally no role in the nomination of the next Supreme Court Justice -- finds the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor "troubling."
This is one of those moments when the media's preference for conflict gets in the way of its efforts to inform. A Supreme Court nomination is an important story. But it is not necessarily a dramatic one. The last nominee to actually be defeated -- Harriett Miers was withdrawn, remember, and withdrawn due to conservative unrest -- was Robert Bork. And he was a conservative choice facing a Senate with 55 Democrats. Sotomayor is a Democratic president's nominee who will come before a Democratic Senate. She won't be "Borked" because, where Bork began 5 votes down, she begins 10 votes up. If Bork had enjoyed 15 more easy votes, he'd be Justice Bork today.
As such, there are certain safe predictions we can make: Barring imperfect vetting on the part of the majority, the final nominee will be pro-choice. Will be sympathetic to labor. Will be sympathetic to the federal role in regulation. Will be, in sum, the sort of Justice you'd expect from a left-of-center president and a left-of-center Senate.
The apparent importance of Romney's discomfort is that it implies Republican opposition to Sotomayor's nomination. It implies a fight. But Republicans actually have very little influence over the final outcome. If Sotomayor falls, another Democratic nominee takes her place, with similarly left-of-center positions, to be voted on by a Democratic Senate. For that reason, it makes a lot of sense to scrutinize Sotomayor's record. But it doesn't make a lot of sense to handicap her chances. As opposed to an issue like cap and trade or health reform, where the defeat of a bill might mean the death of the effort, this is not, in the long-run, an issue that Obama can lose.
May 26, 2009; 4:00 PM ET
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