Why does everybody in Washington fight?

Judge Stevens


Here we go again.

For the past few weeks, rumors have been circulating in Washington, D.C., that Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens was making his way toward the door and into the land of retirement.

In a letter to President Obama last Friday, Justice Stevens officially put all rumors to rest when he announced his impending retirement. He will remain on the bench to finish out this term, which is likely to end in June. Stevens recommended Obama have his new appointee confirmed before the next term starts in October.

While he wasn’t expected to go on the record until the end of the month, I say why not call it a day? The man has served for almost 35 years and is approaching his 90th birthday on April 20. I think he has fulfilled his civic duty and earned a little “R and R.”

Before the word was final, Republicans, Democrats and political spectators started circling the wagons, guessing whom president Obama might nominate as Stevens’ replacement, and how ugly the confirmation process could be. CNN and The Los Angeles Times already predicted the appointment could inevitably lead to a GOP filibuster. Great.

I beg and plead to the political gods: not again, not another fight. We just got through the health care war, which isn’t even finished. Call me naïve, but why does every decision in Washington have to be a long, drawn-out battle? Can’t one thing run smoothly? The poor man hasn’t even vacated his seat on the bench yet, and people are pulling out their armor, preparing for bloodshed.

Reporters and political commentators began speculating weeks ago which names Obama might submit or how big of a fight he will put up for his nominee. There it is again, another hint of a fight on the horizon.

A recent CNN story said Republicans have begun speculating the president could face an uphill struggle if he puts up a fight and tries to nominate a strong liberal to the bench during an election year.

In 2009, when Justice Sonia Sotomayor was nominated, her three-month confirmation seemed relatively tame. Yet I grew sick of hearing updates about her confirmation process day after day, along with all the name-calling and criticisms Republicans were throwing her way.

The Washington Post already predicted a bigger battle from the president over this justice nomination than we saw for Sotomayor. In a recent article, it speculated since he doesn’t have to focus all his efforts on health care, Obama could put more energy toward his nominee this time around.

According to the article, Obama has announced he is shifting his focus toward energy, education, finance and immigration legislation, now that his health care bill has passed. With the health care fight behind him, The Post hinted the president would be eager, and willing, to take on congress if they fight his Supreme Court nomination.

Since Stevens’ announcement, the White House said it won’t officially release a list of replacement candidates until May. But that doesn’t stop people from speculating whose names are on it.

Liberals are hoping Obama nominates a strong, vocal liberal to counter conservative Justice Antonin Scalia while Republicans hope Obama “does not nominate an overly ideological person,” according to a recent Fox News interview.

CNN speculates the Obama administration will re-examine federal appellate judge Diane Wood, solicitor general Elena Kagan and federal appellate judge Merrick Garland, all people on Obama’s “short list” before he nominated Sotomayor.

The New York Times speculates State Department adviser Harold Hongju Koh, Harvard Law professor Cass Sunstein and Stanford Law professor Pamela S. Karlan would be strong left-wing candidates.

Once the names Sunstein and Koh were uttered, Republicans let out an ugly cry. Curt Levey, executive director of the conservative group Committee for Justice, told The New York Times if either of those people were nominated “you would have all-out war.” We really have some aggressive politicians in Washington, just itching to start another fight.

Another name that keeps popping up is Gov. Jennifer Granholm. She was on the short list with Sotomayor. While Granholm dodges the question of whether she would accept a nomination, it would mean she would have to leave her post in Lansing to Lt. Gov. John Cherry before her term is up in January.

Everyone’s got an opinion and is throwing his or her own suggestions into the ring. But I just laugh at this battle that began before Stevens even made a decision. While I do not look forward to the next confirmation process and all the mud slinging that comes along with it, I find it funny Washington officials are already taking sides and getting riled up this early in the game.

Is it possible we are all putting the cart before the horse? Why don’t we wait and see whom Obama nominates before we start another fight? Why does everything have to be a fight, anyway?

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