Legal affairs correspondent Dahlia Lithwick has a column up over at Slate.com about the liberal law student response to the prospect of a second Obama Supreme Court nominee.
They understand that it's a foregone conclusion that there will be no risky pick for the court. They just aren't sure what makes their heroes so risky. Supreme Court savant Tom Goldstein has laid out better than anybody why the Obama White House has no interest in picking a fight about the Stevens seat this summer. Emily Bazelon has argued that the White House may not even have the stomach to tap Diane Wood if it means offering up red meat to antiabortion groups. Liz Cheney contends that Elena Kagan's participation in a broad national effort to ban military recruiters from campuses because of "don't ask, don't tell" makes her a "radical." By calling even Obama's moderate shortlisters unhinged, conservative judicial activists have knocked any genuine liberal out of play in advance of the game.
This has political implications, certainly, but my concern here is with the next generation of liberal law students, who continue to hear the message that their heroes are presumptively ineligible for a seat at the high court, whereas the brightest lights of the Federalist Society—Judge Brett Kavanaugh, professor Richard Epstein, Clarence Thomas, Theodore Olsen, Ken Starr, and Michael McConnell—are either already on the bench or will be seen as legitimate candidates the next time a Republican is in the White House. Look at the speakers list of the last national Federalist Society conference and tell me the word filibuster would have been raised if John McCain had tapped most of them. Not likely, because they're all perceived as smart, well-respected constitutional scholars and judges.
Read the whole column over at Slate. I find it incredibly dispiriting, but because I'm a Lithwick groupie, I'm willing to read pretty much anything she writes. And I couldn't agree more on the cockamamie state of affairs that is our current notion of what constitutes the legal mainstream. Where, oh where, have the outspoken, articulate liberals gone?
Ampersand @ Alas, a Blog offers some further thoughts.