Obama's Supreme Court Pick Is Qualified And Centrist


The late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's body wasn't even cold by the time the partisan bickering began over his replacement.

Within two hours, Republicans were digging their trenches, swearing that they wouldn't consider -- much less confirm -- any nominee named by President Barack Obama. Their counterparts on the left urged Obama to move quickly and pick a liberal justice who would change the balance of the court, ensuring legal victories for important cases on immigration policy, environmental reform and the church-state divide.

Far-left groups like the Super PAC Democracy for America urged the president to pick a woman or person of color, pushing identity politics over qualifications. Right-wing think tanks predicted a doomsday scenario, with Obama looking to do as much damage to conservatives as possible before leaving office.

And then Obama did what no one expected and nominated a moderate, well-regarded jurist who values the Constitution over ideology, a sharp-minded nominee who's been praised by both Democrats and Republicans.

Obama may not have been the unifier he promised in his lofty campaign speeches of 2008, but give the president credit: He honored the American spirit of compromise, defied his own base, and picked a jurist who belongs on the Supreme Court.

Merrick Garland has a resume to be proud of, and a track record of being fair and respectful of the law.

Garland began his career working as a special assistant to Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti during the twilight of Jimmy Carter's presidency, and then spent almost half a decade in private practice before teaching antitrust law at Harvard.

Before he was appointed to the D.C. Circuit Court -- with the approval of a large majority of Republicans -- Garland prosecuted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

"Garland is well known, well respected, and tremendously well liked in Washington legal circles," New York Magazine's John Heilemann wrote. "Even Republicans have nice things to say about him."

Admirers call Garland a centrist, a consensus-builder who has the temperament to make an outstanding jurist. He comes from humble beginnings, with an NPR story noting he sold his comic book collection to help pay for his tuition, and worked as a clerk in a shoe store during summer breaks from college.

As a young attorney, Garland impressed judicial bigwigs.

"He had shown himself to be a brilliant lawyer with excellent judgment, utterly without any political agenda, other than to do right," said Jamie Gorelick, the deputy attorney general during former President Bill Clinton's administration.

Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the University of California's Irvine law school, offered simple, direct praise.

"No one in the United States is more qualified to be on the Supreme Court than Merrick Garland," Chemerinsky wrote in an editorial for CNN.com.

Despite the universal praise for Garland, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he won't even meet with him, and says he'll refuse to consider him as a nominee.

That is a huge mistake.

Garland's nomination is an olive branch from Obama, an honest pick who has the potential to steer the Supreme Court back to interpreting the law instead of legislating from the bench. He's a unifier, and a better choice than Republicans expected, much less deserve. If the GOP refuses to even consider Garland, voters will punish the party at the polls.

Republicans should do the right thing and recognize that Garland is a man who belongs on the high court.

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Sources: Politico, CNN, New York Magazine, NPR, Slate / Photo credit: The White House/Flickr

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