Obama, the GOP, and John Paul Stevens’ Supreme Court Retirement

The confirmation hearings will be another opportunity for GOP to win favor, if they stay reasonable.

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By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Breaking, but not surprising, news: that Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has announced that he would retire at the end of this term. This means it'll be another summer of confirmation battles in Washington.

President Obama will probably be urged by his friends on the left to make a bold choice and nominate a very liberal replacement for Stevens, who is the leader of the liberals on the bench--especially while he's got a chance before the midterm elections. He should resist that urge and not go to the far left. It's too polarizing. With Sen. Brown now in office, the Republicans have 41 votes and Obama would be smarter to move toward the center and choose a candidate who is less liberal than Stevens was, and who has a better chance of getting through the Senate. Plus the president would woo back some of the independents that he lost during the healthcare reform fight.

On the right, this is an opportunity for Republicans. They should stay away from any sort of "You Lie!" type of behavior and instead see this as a chance to address both independent voters and the Tea Partiers about what the GOP thinks is the proper role of government, the meaning of liberty these days, and what it means to legislate from the bench. It's a chance to put their best case forward for constitutional principles, and talk about the kind of judicial philosophy they'd like to see in a nominee.

If they disagree with the legal opinions of President Obama's candidate, that's fine. They should say so. But they should do so in a way that is reasonable, not inflammatory or ugly. And they should instead state what they stand for, not just what they're against. Chances are the president will nominate a woman, since so many on his short list are women. Republicans cannot afford to alienate women voters--especially ones who are also independent voters--and this is a great opportunity to stay away from any sort of politics of personal destruction and use the debate as a chance to win over a few hearts and minds, just as they did with healthcare.

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