North Korea's recent nuclear test is extremely worrisome, that's for sure. Iran is ignoring international calls to stop it's nuclear program. Pakistan's shaky (nuclear-armed) government is increasingly being threatened with a fundamentalist takeover.
But that's not what I'm referring to here.
I'm talking about the threat from the GOP Senate minority against ANY Supreme Court nominee that President Obama proposes to fill the position of departing Justice David Souter, who announced he will retire at the end of the Court's session in June.
The President has interviewed two candidates as of late last week, and he also had the brazen audacity to mention this (from the AP):
"You have to have not only the intellect to be able to effectively apply the law to cases before you," Obama said in an interview carried Saturday on C-SPAN television. "But you have to be able to stand in somebody else's shoes and see through their eyes and get a sense of how the law might work or not work in practical day-to-day living."Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) has promised to lead a filibuster in the Senate if President Obama puts a candidate forward that shows any trace of human emotion:
Obama also has said he wants someone who employs empathy, "understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles," when arriving at decisions that could influence the nation for decades.
Sen. Jon Kyl made clear he would use the procedural delay if Obama follows through on his pledge to nominate someone who takes into account human suffering and employs empathy from the bench.Apparently, the only candidate that Sen. Kyl would find suitable would be someone who coldly decides cases based on simply the application of the law and not its potential impact on the people it affects.
Given the recent history of the Supreme Court and some of their decisions, I think it would be a benefit to us all to have a Justice use at least a tiny bit of empathy when making his or her decisions, rather than just mindlessly accept ideological dogma as their guide.
However, there IS one candidate who just might attain the requisite minimal level of human emotion and empathy that Sen. Kyl seeks:
(Of course, I'm talking about the character "Mr. Spock"; I don't presume to know Leonard Nimoy's personal emotional level)
Does anyone remember the famous "Gang of Fourteen", the group of senators (including our own Joe Lieberman) who worked out the compromise that effectively stripped the minority Democrats of their power to filibuster Bush's lower court nominees under the threat that the GOP majority would change the Senate rules to disallow a super-majority to defeat them and simply make it a 50% plus one majority requirement to stop a filibuster? This was known as the "nuclear option".
As a result, the nation got stuck with tons of young, ultra-conservative judges who will infect the court system for decades with their rulings. And they will likely still be there when a Republican is back in the White House, just waiting to fill spots on the Supreme Court when they become available.
Now the Republicans are preemptively threatening to use that very same filibuster they wanted to get rid of to block the first nominee a Democrat will make since Bill Clinton was president.
Maybe the Democrats should dust off the old Republican scare tactic to whip some of them into line.
UPDATE: Right after I published this article, I turned on the TV and saw this - President Obama wants federal Judge Sonia Sotomayor to be his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. Let the fireworks begin!