After months of speculation, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens announced his retirement today, paving the way for President Obama to make another appointment to the high court just one year after Sonia Sotomayor took her place on the bench. Steven turns 90 this month and had kick-started retirement rumors after hiring a smaller staff than he had previously.
The retirement of Stevens doesn’t put the ideological make-up of the Court in much jeopardy. Stevens was the leader of the liberal wing of the Court, and President Obama is sure to name someone with similar leanings, so in essence liberals will at best hold serve on the Court. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is likely the next to retire, so the left probably won’t get a chance to upset the balance of the Court the next time either.
Obama praised Stevens from the White House and promised a swift effort to replace him. It’s likely that most of the vetting that resulted in Sotomayor’s nomination is fresh enough to be reused this time around, with Solicitor General Elena Kagan and appellate court judges Diane P. Wood and Merrick B. Garland as the frontrunners.
Allahpundit seems to think that, facing a mid-term blowout, Obama may go for broke and nominate the most left-wing judge he can get away with. After all, it couldn’t make things that much worse for Democrats, could it? Actually, it could, and if Obama nominates a radical of one kind or another, he will indeed hobble the Democrats further. Beyond that, he would put nearly the last nail in the coffin of the “Obama is moderate centrist” narrative that is still incredibly being pushed, and hurt his general viability for 2012.
Then again, it’s not like much care has been shown to the will of the electorate thus far, and Obama has stated that he wouldn’t mind to be a “really good one-term President” (sort of an oxymoron if you think about it) – so why not? I suppose we’ll see soon enough.