Over the years, Republican nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court have ranged from cronyism (like Harriet Miers), to happenstance (like Sandra Day O’Connor), to regrettable mistakes (like William Brennan). Many of the best appointments resulted from luck (like William Rehnquist). Liberals do not leave such an important appointment to chance; they carefully analyze which potential nominee would be the most liberal and have the most liberal influence on other Justices.
The remarkable disclosure of a personal letter written by Lawrence Tribe, a leading leftist professor at Harvard Law School, to President Obama last year reveals their behind-the-scenes strategy. Tribe's letter sets out the liberal game plan. He wanted a nominee who could influence Justice Anthony Kennedy and pull him to the political left. Tribe did not feel that Sonia Sotomayor would be able to persuade Kennedy. He said Sotomayor is “not nearly as smart as she seems to think she is.” However, Obama wanted to please Hispanic voters, so he nominated Sonia Sotomayor anyway.
Liberals often try to put down conservatives on an intellectual basis, so Tribe’s style is a familiar tactic. Liberals praise the intellects of others depending on how liberal they are. Tribe’s letter showed foresight in discussing how to fill the second Supreme Court vacancy. Anticipating the retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens, Tribe recommended Elena Kagan, former Dean of the Harvard Law School. Tribe praised Kagan at length, despite the fact that she never was a judge, and she was ultimately nominated by Obama to the Supreme Court. If the Democrats use clever strategy with their judicial appointments, while Republicans just rely on luck, then it’s no mystery which side will control the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Listen to the radio commentary here: