Monday, November 24, 2008


While President-elect Obama considers his initial moves and strategies when assuming the Oval Office in January, it is not too soon to consider how the history books will define the Obama legacy. Given a national consensus that the current situation is so grave and so challenging that four years are not enough for a complete turnaround, one must assume he will get at least a four year honeymoon from making any substantial, meaningful changes.
Accepting this fact, it can be easily assumed he will be, along with a Democratic congress, in charge for the next eight years. Clearly, there are no leading candidates on the Republican side to challenge him in four years. In fact, the field is so limited, so devoid of leadership, the press and party have identified Governor Palin as a front runner. Needless to say, as a liberal, this tickles me to no end.
So, where will he carve out his legacy? It has to be on his mind, especially in light of his assuming the Oval from a man whose own legacy will be legend; legendarily bad.
The one overwhelming area where he can make a long term mark on American history is in the appointment of liberal judges to the Supreme Court. Of the nine justices, four are appointees of the Bush family, two of which are relatively very young for the Court (Alito and Roberts).
However, when you consider the ages of the balance of the Supreme Court, then add eight years to their collective lifespans, you can see that the Obama administration may well have the potential to appoint at minimum two justices, and quite possibly, a few more.
Not to be grave, or wish bad will on anyone, but Stevens at 88 (a Ford appointee) and Ginsburg at 75 (a Clinton appointee) may not wish to serve, or be able to serve, an additional 8 years on the court. Ginsburg especially may want to step down before Obama leaves office, and leave her chair to a moderate liberal such as herself. Stevens, may not have a choice, given his advancing years. One has to wonder why, at 88, he did not want to step down during the Bush II administration.
Chronologically, the next two justices are two Reagan appointees, Scalia and Kennedy, who are 72 years old each. Will they retire while a liberal president is sitting in office? Not if they can help it, although they will be eighty when (I believe) the Obama administration will end, and the conservatives have any hope of taking back the White House. This leaves Breyer at 70 (a Clinton appointee) and Souter at 69 (a Bush I appointee).
As a former college professor of constitutional law, Obama has to be acutely aware of the possibilities and potential he may have land into his liberal lap over the course of the next eight years. Possibly nothing else he does while assuming the top spot will have quite a dramatic effect upon American history than shifting the court to a more liberal, tolerant, civil rights oriented bench. Issues such as stem cell research, abortion rights, individual and civil rights may well hang in the balance.
One has only to picture the collective ages of the Supreme Court to see the potential for sweeping changes to the American landscape. In 2016, the court will be made up of a 96 year old, three 80 year olds, two in their late 70's, and three in their 60's. Considering the advancing years of the six oldest sitting justices, their average age will be 82. All I'm saying is do the math and you can see that the result of the Obama / McCain election may have judicial ripples for generations to follow. Talk about change.....

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