President Obama has nominated D.C. Circuit Chief Judge Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court. We had figured that Obama could never nominate a white male, and would go all-in and nominate someone who shares his judicial philosophy—i.e., a leftist in the mode of Sonia Sotomayor.
That would accomplish two things: (1) Put someone up that he truly would like to see on the Court, in the event that Republicans were to cave and move the nomination. (2) Failing that, rile up the base, adding the charges of RACISM to the usual OBSTRUCTIONISM.
We figure that if President Obama felt that he had a high probability of getting someone confirmed, and/or was bracing for a fight, he would choose someone like D.C. Circuit Judge Sri Srinivasan, who has the benefit of a somewhat stealth philosophy as well as a history of being approved by a recent Senate with unanimous Republican support.
Instead, we read the choice of Garland as a resignation on Obama’s part that he won’t get confirmed. It’s a safe choice in that sense, as Garland will go back to his important job, and probably won’t risk having any dirt dug up. We assume there isn’t any: Garland has been a typical career-government liberal Circuit Judge for two decades, and the circus surrounding his nomination won’t change his life much, nor will it diminish his chances to be nominated by a future Democrat president (though he’s getting a bit old). There’s little down-side to the president or to Garland.
(Of course, choosing someone as a sacrificial lamb displays a certain type of cynicism, but if he believed that he has no chance at confirmation, then Obama’s choice of Garland is less cynical than some possible alternatives.)
We can imagine Obama’s conversations with the likes of the NAACP, National Council of La Raza, and other leftist groups, to the effect of, I have decided that my nominee has no chance. I won’t put up a minority as a token/martyr who would be harmed by the process.
We find it hard to imagine Obama being so magnanimous when faced with an opportunity to engage in racial rabble-rousing. So we remain open to alternative explanations.
Maybe Obama is just lazy, phoning-in this nomination of an easy choice, as he has been doing with so much else toward the end of his term?