[It] was not a surprise when the President called to talk about the appointment and what he was thinking of doing.
President Clinton indicated he was leaning toward nominating Bruce Babbitt, his Secretary of the Interior, a name that had been bouncing around in the press. Bruce, a well-known western Democrat, had been the governor of Arizona and a candidate for president in 1988. Although he had been a state attorney general back during the 1970s, he was known far more for his activities as a politician than as a jurist. Clinton asked for my reaction.
I told him that confirmation would not be easy. At least one Democrat would probably vote against Bruce, and there would be a great deal of resistance from the Republican side. I explained to the President that although he might prevail in the end, he should consider whether he wanted a tough, political battle over his first appointment to the Court.
Our conversation moved to other potential candidates. I asked whether he had considered Judge Stephen Breyer of the First Circuit Court of Appeals or Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. President Clinton indicated he had heard Breyer’s name but had not thought about Judge Ginsberg.
I indicated I thought they would be confirmed easily. I knew them both and believed that, while liberal, they were highly honest and capable jurists and their confirmation would not embarrass the President. From my perspective, they were far better than the other likely candidates from a liberal Democrat administration.
In the end, the President did not select Secretary Babbitt. Instead, he nominated Judge Ginsburg and Judge Breyer a year later, when Harry Blackmun retired from the Court. Both were confirmed with relative ease.
Compare and contrast how diplomatically President Clinton worked with the minority in the Senate to find compromise candidates who were highly qualified and would achieve confirmation with ease (Ginsburg: 97-3; Breyer: 87-9) - with how President Bush has decided to freeze the minority Senate Democrats out of the process entirely (at least to this point). Although Senators on both sides have urged the White House to extensively consult with the Senate prior to nomination, Bush refuses to do so.
What Bush's tactic will breed is a knock-down drag-out fight - it is likely to be very ugly. And it is reasonably likely if he nominates an ideologue that the vote will end up in the range of 56-44 - divisive, bitter, and harmful (which, by the way, are three words that describe much of Bush's governing). A simply phone call, consultation, and good-faith effort could lead to a 85-15 confirmation which a qualified Supreme Court justice deserves.
Which scenario makes more sense?
(Hat Tip to ACSblog)