ABOUT ME

 

Nick Ragone is an author, attorney and public relations executive in New York City. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from Rutgers University, and is a graduate of the Eagleton Institute of Political Science at Rutgers University (undergraduate) and the Georgetown University Law Center.

He is the author of three books: Essential American Government, Everything American Government, and President's Most Wanted. Nick is a regular contributor to the Fox News Channel and Fox Business, the PIX11 Morning Show, and has a weekly appearance on the popular Raph Bailey Radio Show.  He co-anchored PIX11's five-hour live inauguration coverage with Jim Watkins and Kaity Tong.

Nick is a contributor to Donklephant.com, one of the most influential political blogs on the web, and  has written for US News & World Report, The Star-Ledger, Real Simple Magazine and RealSimple.com.  Nick has been quoted in over two dozen stories on politics, the presidency, and public relations.  In December of 2007, Nick was named one of PR Week's 40 under 40 to watch, and in May of 2008 was featured in "Profiles of Success", a book about public relations. Nick lives in Jersey City, NJ, with his wife and two children, and spends what little free time he has obsessing on the Mets.

Nick can also be found on Facebook. http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=740817853


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« More to the Caroline Kennedy debacle | Main | PIX11 News Closeup with Marvin Scott »
Monday
May042009

Bubba on the Supreme Court ... don't rule it out

Trivia question: Who were the last three Supreme Court justices to be appointed by Democratic presidents? The most recent are pretty straightforward -- both Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer still serve on the high court.  But prior to that, it had been over 40 years since Lyndon Johnson appointed Thurgood Marshall as the first African-American justice.

President Barack Obama finds himself in the enviable position of likely having multiple Supreme Court appointments during his first term -- at least one for certain with the retirement of Justice David Souter. Enviable because, with the Democrats filibuster-proof majority in the Senate (once Al Franken takes his seat), the president will face scant opposition to whomever he nominates to the court -- a luxury that few presidents have been afforded.

But the real question: will President Obama take advantage of this unique moment -- he has a 20-vote majority in the Senate, sky high approval ratings, and the political winds at his back -- to make a truly game changing selection? Or will he be content to find a justice that simply 'checks all the boxes' --someone that satisfies the numerous political considerations that go into these picks.

If the early "short lists" are any indication, it seems like the overwhelming consideration is nothing more than gender.  The names most frequently mentioned -- Appeals Court Judges Sonia Sotomayor and Diane Wood, Solicitor General Elena Kagan, and Georgia Supreme Court judge Leah Sears -- are all woman, and the overwhelming expectation among beltway insiders is that the next justice will come from that cohort.  The smart money is on a minority woman, and for that reason Sotomayor is the prohibitive favorite, mostly because she would solidify Obama's standing with Hispanic voters, a group that he's struggled with at times.  Leah Sears would be only the third African-American to sit on the court, and is a strong possibility, too.

But would any on the short list really be a game changer -- someone who could reshape the court in their image the way Earl Warren, and Thurgood Marshall, and now Antonin Scalia have?

They're all capable jurists and would cast a reliability liberal vote, no question about it. But for years the Democratic faithful have been lamenting how the liberal bloc has lacked a booming presence -- a first rate intellectual with the personality and persuasion to match -- who could act as a foil to Scalia and Thomas, and chart a new direction for the court. In many ways, the court has become as much a political institution as a judicial one; these days, landmark decisions tend to be born of bold thinking, political calculations, and risk taking more than stare decisis, and it's uncertain if the names being bandied fill that bill.

However, one name not being discussed does fit the mark: Clinton -- both Bill and Hillary. Were Hillary not the secretary of state, she would be an obvious choice and the overwhelming frontrunner; she's the perfect combination of political acumen, legal heft, and spirited debater that the left so desperately wants to see on the court.  Don't rule her out for future consideration; she may still find herself on the court someday.

The more tantalizing and interesting pick would be Bill Clinton. It would be an unusual -- ok, highly unusual -- selection, but not without precedent: William Howard Taft served as chief justice for nearly a decade after he left the presidency.

Having the greatest politician in generations on the Supreme Court would certainly qualify as a game changer. Is there any doubt that Bubba would make an immediate and indelible impact on the high court? How much would he relish the chance to match wits and do battle with Scalia, Thomas and Roberts on a daily basis? You would almost have to take pity on the justices -- and the clerks for that matter -- the first time he lobbied them on a decision; they wouldn't know what had hit them.  Nobody is more persuasive in a small setting, and the Supreme Court is the ultimate small setting.

President Obama would probably take some flak for not picking a woman or a minority, but in the end Clinton would sail through Senate confirmation, and it would put to rest any lingering hard feelings between Bubba and Obama.

It's a long shot -- probably a super long shot -- but as the Kentucky Derby proved on Saturday, sometimes long shots hit.

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