Who Will It Be? (TWHP Blog from 5/21/09)
Being the politics junkie I am, when I heard there was an opening on the Supreme Court because of Justice David Souter’s decision to retire in June, I had what felt like a million questions – who will it be? Where will they stand on the issues important to not only women but to our whole country? How will they vote? Will they tip the court in another direction? And, most importantly – will it be a woman?
Watching CNN the day Souter announced his retirement, I noticed a few interesting things: first, most of the comments were not speculating who President Obama would choose to appoint, but what gender the choice would be. Most commentators said that they thought it would be a female, and one commentator said that Obama “owed” all women another female Supreme Court Justice. What will be interesting to see is how pro-active Obama will be to make sure the Supreme Court Justice is a woman.
While yes, it is true that Obama has many people who were originally Hillary Clinton supporters to thank for his election to office in November, it is also true that many lists of candidates for positions which aides and assistants come up with are heavy with men. New York Governor David Paterson even openly criticized in December an all-male list of candidates for the Chief Judge of New York State’s Court of Appeals, rejecting it and saying “I don’t accept that there isn’t a woman in this state qualified to serve on the Court of Appeals.”
The question is whether, faced with the same predicament, President Obama will make the same move – and it seems that he not only will, but is taking precautions to make sure that he doesn’t have a list with only white males on it. He has hired top communications strategist Stephanie Cutter onto the White House staff on the temporary assignment of assisting Obama through the confirmation process, and CNN reported that of the list of about half a dozen finalists Obama is giving serious scrutiny and consideration to, only one of them is male. Republican strategists are so sure that Obama’s choice will, in fact, be a woman, that they have already launched a website attacking what they believe to be the three most viable candidates to be the next Supreme Court Justice – all of them women.
Some have said that President Obama is morally and ethically obligated to begin choosing a Supreme Court that looks “more like America.” Anita Allen, a professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania, said that a nomination of a “qualified African-American, Asian-American, Native American or Hispanic woman would be proof that the era of male and white privilege was truly over.” Melissa Harris-Lacewell, professor at Princeton University, has said that “The Supreme Court is a body that does not reflect the body politic” and said that “A truly inclusive democracy must push that understanding to include all citizens as equally capable of full participation” – read, a woman or minority should be appointed to the supreme court.
But others aren’t sure that being a woman or a minority should be a major factor in President Obama’s decision. Diane Ravitch, historian of education at New York University, said that President Obama should “select the person best qualified to become a Supreme Court justice, without regard to race, gender or other irrelevant attributes. If the best person happens to be black, Hispanic and/or female, that’s swell.” Tom Korologos, a Republican Strategist, said, “Appoint the most qualified person they can find. Quit fooling around with all this quota stuff.”
So – what do you think? Is choosing a woman the most important part of this process? Does President Obama owe women, particularly those who were former Hillary Clinton supporters, a female Supreme Court Justice? Should he focus on trying to nominate a minority candidate? Or should he simply focus on nominating the best candidate, regardless of gender or race? What is more important: nominating a woman to the supreme court, or increasing the amount of female elected officials?
*** From my White House Project blog 5/21/2009 *** http://leaders.thewhitehouseproject.org/profiles/blog/list?user=3jxqpw07qmliz