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Hillary Clinton for Supreme Court Justice!

Hillary Clinton for Supreme Court Justice!

By Mike McCurry - December 16, 2014

One of my heroes in public life is Bruce Babbitt, former secretary of the interior and former governor of Arizona. I had the pleasure of working in his 1988 campaign for president and although we did not win him many votes, we surely helped give him a platform from which he did enormously positive things to protect America’s pristine natural wilderness areas and wildlife.

He comes to mind now because he nearly made it to the U.S. Supreme Court. President Clinton almost appointed him to a vacancy in 1994 that went to Stephen Breyer -- and, according to some recent columns, the vacancy that Ruth Bader Ginsburg filled in 1993. I still wish someone with Babbitt’s smarts, whimsical humor, and passion for intellectual debate could be added to the court before President Obama leaves office in 2017.

Bruce Babbitt’s time may have passed, although I’d still keep him on the list. But President Clinton once told me that Babbitt’s nomination would have been a non-starter because Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, told him that the opposition, especially from Western state senators, would be too fierce.

What if a vacancy now appeared on our nation’s highest court? Given the bitterness and polarization that exists in Washington today, it is hard to imagine any nominee offered by Barack Obama having a less than tumultuous path to confirmation.

With one exception: Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Hillary Clinton would bring to the U.S. Supreme Court a keen intellectual perspective, a robust appetite for the legal give and take that makes good fodder for judicial decisions, and a personality that would fit well in the current court and help build consensus and respect for constitutional law -- a subject she knows very well going all the way back through two impeachment discussions involving U.S. presidents. No doubt her memories of those times, painful and otherwise, would give her a perspective on the constitutional balance of powers that no other sitting justice could equal.

But - oh, yes -- she might be running for president. I would be among the first to applaud that decision because she would make a good chief executive. What if, on the other hand, her future (she’s now 67) might be something other than endless trips in the next two years to the coffee shops and pancake houses of Iowa and New Hampshire? Not to mention spending more time with her granddaughter, Charlotte? And would not she have a longer-term, more lasting impact on the direction of our country as a consensus-building Supreme Court justice than as a U.S. president trying to govern in the stultifying, sulfurous atmosphere of a divided Washington?

Well, it’s something to think about as the current woeful Congress departs. Hillary is probably the one person Barack Obama could nominate who would be confirmed in a nanosecond, hopefully because many senators would see her as superbly qualified jurist, but also because some no doubt would like to see a formidable presidential contender removed from the field.

History suggests that someone who can combine the smart power of legal reasoning with the savvy insider knowledge of politics often becomes a transformative figure on the court. Think Earl Warren.

Mike McCurry is a veteran political consultant who served in the White House as press secretary to President Bill Clinton from 1995-1998. He is a Co-Chairmen of Arts+Labs, a collaboration between technology companies and creative communities.
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