Justice Barack Hussein Obama? No, that’s not a joke. Professor Jeffrey Rosen makes a serious case for President Obama to become Justice Obama, in the Washington Post:
Though Obama has struggled to find his footing in the White House, his education, temperament and experience make him ideally suited to lead the liberal wing of the court, especially at a time when a narrow conservative majority seems increasingly intent on challenging progressive economic reforms for the first time since the New Deal. Obama is clearly eager to take on the four truly conservative justices — Samuel Alito, John Roberts, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas — as his State of the Union smackdown suggests. But as president, he’s constrained by that pesky separation of powers. So what better way to engage the fight than to join the bench?
History offers examples of other executives who have moved over to the judicial branch. E.g., William Howard Taft, who served as chief justice after serving as president; Earl Warren, who served as chief justice after serving as California governor.
But in Obama’s case, how exactly would this happen?
Obama could “pull a Dick Cheney,” as Erin Geiger Smith puts it. From Rosen:
It would be unusual, but not difficult, for Obama to get himself on the Supreme Court. He could nominate himself to replace John Paul Stevens, for example, or he could gamble and promise Hillary Rodham Clinton that he won’t run for reelection in 2012 in exchange for a pledge of appointment to the next vacancy.
A scenario that results in Hillary Clinton taking the presidency? Sounds good to us.
Jeff Rosen thinks that Obama has what it takes to move from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to One First Street:
Obama’s academic credentials for the court — including serving as president of the Harvard Law Review and as a constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago — are obvious. But it’s his even temperament and low boiling point that seem tailor-made for the court at this polarized moment. Obama’s patient courtship of the vain and wavering swing votes in the Senate (such as Joe Lieberman) during the health-care debate, for example, is ideal preparation for courting the vain and wavering swing vote on the court (Justice Anthony Kennedy). And Obama’s detached and judicious disposition would equip him to challenge the conservative hothead, Scalia, without descending to his name-calling.
Plus he’s more qualified for the high court than Sonia “not that smart and kind of a bully” Sotomayor.
Read Professor Rosen’s complete piece, which is deeply thoughtful and brimming over with historical detail. Has he persuaded you? Take our poll:
Supreme Court Justice Barack Obama? [Washington Post]
Justice Barack Obama? Law Prof Says President Could Nominate Himself [ABA Journal]
Jeffrey Rosen: Barack Obama Could Nominate Barack Obama For Supreme Court [Business Insider / Law Review]