“Indisputably qualified,” President Obama was firm in describing the Supreme Court nominee he plans to put forward to replace Justice Antonin Scalia. Whomever he nominates will have to have unquestioned credentials as well as the stamina to navigate the dank waters of the current political maelstrom.
Republican candidates are squawking that President Obama shouldn’t nominate in the last year of his presidency; many say he does not have the right to name a replacement now for Justice Scalia. And regardless, Republican leadership is promising to block the President’s nominee even before he names a candidate. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton jumped into the fray calling the Republicans disrespectful and racist. While Democratic Senate leaders highlighted the hypocrisy of the strict constitutionalists whose threatened action is definitely not written in the constitution.
How crass and tasteless that the verbal brickbats subsumed the tributes and mourning immediately after the passing of Justice Scalia. A man generally acknowledged as an intellectual giant revered by conservatives, respected by academics, even as he was singularly reviled by his ideological opponents.
He will be a tough act to follow but several names have surfaced. There’s Judge Sri Srinivasen on the US Court of Appeals for the DC circuit, unanimously confirmed just two years ago. There’s also Paul Watford on the Ninth Circuit court—9 Republicans voted for him in the 61-24 vote. Republican Senator Amy Klobuchar is on the shortlist- she’s the only woman on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Recently, Attorney General Loretta Lynch—twice confirmed by the Senate—has been talked about. All worthy candidates, all with past Republican support. No matter. The Senate process will be grueling, and nasty. The only guarantee is that the President’s nominee will endure a new level of public beating, and in the end will likely not be approved. It leaves the President in an untenable situation—looking for someone who is an excellent candidate who is essentially a highly qualified sacrificial lamb. Mr. President look no further –I’ve got the perfect person—your buddy former Governor Deval Patrick.
Now hear me out—Former Governor Patrick’s name was floated both times President Obama nominated Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayer. And in what’s sure to be an exercise in futility, he’s in the best strategic position for this combat duty. He’s got stellar credentials: Harvard Law, former law clerk, Justice Department, corporate attorney, and two terms as Governor. Inspiring personal story, plus Patrick is a premier persuasive speaker and I can’t think of anybody with sharper oral block and tackle skills. It would be worth the price of the ticket to see him elegantly return any mud slung his way during the Senate hearing.
Finally, one big advantage to a Deval Patrick nomination. I don’t recall the former Governor ever saying he wanted to be on the High Court. Without that emotional pressure, he could keep his cool during the Senate hearings and take one for the team. He’d succeed even if he failed to get approval, and walk away with increased visibility and political capital. Perfect for a guy who may just run for the big office…one day.