Souter is a stereo-typical Northeastern Republican. The son of a banker he was born in Massachusetts, attended Harvard college and Harvard law. Tossing the blue blood Souter in with a former ACLU General Counsel [Ginsburg] says far more about the current state of the GOP as a national party than it does about Souter's alleged liberalism. As Andrew Oh-Willeke discusses at his blog today, the GOP has all but vacated the Northeast. With the loss of Connecticuts Chris Shay's seat last Tuesday there is now not a single member of the United States House of Representatives from the GOP. There are only three GOP Senators from the region and those 3 are the most moderate of their caucus.
There is simply no room in the modern GOP for men of Souter's temperament. Rational, logical, reasoned and of moderate temperament and politics Justice Souter is an outcast. The GOP is essentially a regional party with it's power base in the old Confederacy and some holdout rural states in the plains and mountain west.
No one but David Souter knows exactly why he is retiring now but suffice it to say that he apparently was more comfortable with Barack Obama appointing his successor than George W. Bush or John McCain. This is another indictment of the extreme rightward slide of the GOP and the Supre. Where men with the temperment of David Souter are considered unfit to serve on the United States Supreme Court.
My guess, without having had my coffee or without looking at a list of possible replacements, is that Obama will select a Hispanic. I'd assume he'd like to appoint a Hispanic woman as well to reclaim a second seat for a woman on the Court after Sandra Day O'Connor was replaced by Samuel Alito.
I saw Chuck Todd on the television give his opinion that since Souter was considered a moderate to liberal Justice confirming a replacement should be relatively simple. I'm not entirely sure which planet Chuck Todd has been living on since the election, or really since 1994, but it apparently hasn't been Earth. This will be a bruising fight no matter who Obama nominates. Whatever their qualifications Republicans will declare that the nominee is outside the judicial mainstream. They will threaten to fillibuster and with no Franken and the help of Ben Nelson and Evan Bayh they may actually stop an appointment. The Republicans have no reason to cooperate, depsite what Todd thinks. They have proven time and time again that they have no interest in cooperating or even negotiating with the popular President or the majority in the Senate. The Republicans have been routinely embarrassed by the President and were just humiliated by Specter. They need a win and this is one arena where they may be able to get that win. They'll play to the lowest common denominators in their base and go to extreme lengths to prevent this appointment.
Ultimately they have the right to do that. Liberals should simply understand what fight is coming their way. We should be prepared to stand up and push back against the inevitable dissembling, lies and smears. We shoud also be prepared to see Obama nominate a pragmatic liberal. I'm sure that we on the left will be able to find fault with the whomever Obama selects. With very few exceptions all of his high-profile nominations have been of fairly pragmatic individuals.
On the positive side for progressives it appears that Obama may be able to appoint at least two more Justices in his first term if Justices Stevens and Ginsburg retire as expected. I would not be shocked to see Kennedy retire either and I don't think Scalia's age should be ignored. At the end of Obama's first term we should see a considerably younger, considerably more diverse and considerably more liberal Supreme Court. He will have likely appointed three new Justices and possibly four or even five. Let's not loose site of the long game.