Whoever is elected president of the United States in 2016, the question of the next president's Supreme Court nominees weighs heavily with many voters. Three current justices are over the age of 80, which creates an opportunity for the next president in shaping the long-term direction of the court.
At a campaign stop in Iowa on Jan. 26, Hillary Clinton was asked by a voter whether she would consider appointing Barack Obama as a justice should she be elected president, ABC reports.
"Wow, what a great idea. No one has ever suggested that to me, I love that. Wow! He may have a few other things to do but I tell you that's a great idea."
She told the cheering crowd she would take the suggestion under advisement.
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Her enthusiasm for the suggestion would seem to be catering more to the politics of the moment than to an actual future possible Supreme Court appointment, as most Senate Republicans would balk at the suggestion and make the nomination process difficult, MSNBC notes.
Still, Clinton should not take the possibility off the table.
The president has credentials as a former law professor, as Clinton notes. While that may not seem like nearly enough for some of Obama's critics, his experience as a president would give him unique insight among those on the court. Furthermore, it has precedent: William Howard Taft, who served as president from 1909 to 1913, became chief justice of the Supreme Court in 1921, MSNBC notes.
The news of this endorsement of a possible future Obama Supreme Court nomination is not likely to sit well with Republicans.
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If Hillary Clinton is elected president in November, the only possibility of actually nominating Obama to an empty Supreme Court post would be if the Democrats took the Senate. If that occurs, then it is likely Clinton would want to nominate younger candidates, according to MSNBC.
But if the Republicans remain in control of the Senate, Clinton may find it prudent to keep the "threat" of a theoretical Justice Obama in play if she cannot find any Republican support for her legislative agenda. Given Clinton's reputation as a pragmatist, perhaps she has considered this possibility herself in the days since the question was asked.
A future Justice Barack Obama under President Hillary Clinton, therefore, is not likely to happen given continued Republican control of Congress and opposition to Obama. But it would not be historically unprecedented, and it would not be as if Obama would be entering the post without experience of grappling with tough constitutional questions. And then there is the "pragmatist" reason that Clinton may want to keep the question open for the time being.