Jeffrey Rosen suggests (not completely in jest, it appears) that President Obama appoint himself to replace Justice Stevens on the Supreme Court. Rosen must be awfully disillusioned with the Obama presidency. As I contended here, when folks like Rosen reach this state, one must seriously entertain the idea that Obama is undervalued.
But perhaps Rosen’s proposal is the result of Justice Scalia getting too far inside his head. In a strange new incarnation of his Obama worship, Rosen argues that “Obama’s detached and judicious disposition would equip him to challenge the conservative hothead, Scalia, without descending to his name-calling.”
But Obama-Scalia would be at least as much of a mismatch as Obama-Putin and Obama-Ahmadinejad. Indeed, Obama, having never judged or engaged in the practice of law on a sustained basis, is no more qualified to be a Supreme Court Justice than he was to be President of the United States. (In touting Obama for the Court, Rosen relies on the fact that he impressed a bunch of law students).
Rosen also uses his piece to attack Chief Justice Roberts. According to Rosen, “Obama could take on the role of Supreme Court mediator, conciliator and master compromiser that Roberts promised to play but has not yet delivered.” But Obama has showed himself to be anything but a “master compromiser.” During the health care debate, he was unwilling or unable to win over the likes of Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. A master compromiser would have much more to show from a year of Democrat domination of Congress than Obama does.
Moreover, Rosen’s attack on Roberts is dishonest. It mirrors a longer piece he wrote about the Chief Justice in the New Republic which, as Ed Whelan notes, mischaracterizes the record. Among other examples, Ed points to this paragraph in Rosen’s New Republic piece:
That same summer, I asked Justice John Paul Stevens whether Roberts would succeed in his goal of achieving narrow, unanimous opinions. “I don’t think so,” he replied. “I just think it takes nine people to do that. I think maybe the first few months we all leaned over backward to try to avoid writing separately.” In other words, once his first term ended, Roberts faced a choice: In cases he cared intensely about, he could compromise his principles to reach common ground or he could stick to his guns and infuriate his opponents, who would feel they had been played for dupes. On virtually all of the most divisive constitutional topics, from affirmative action to partial-birth abortion, Roberts stuck to his guns.
As Ed points out, the first portion of this paragraph (the part in which Rosen quotes Justice Stevens) repudiates Rosen’s thesis that the Chief Justice is somehow at fault for failing to generate consensus on the Court. The rest of the paragraph (Rosen’s own characterization of what Stevens said) bears no meaningful relationship to what the Justice told him.
There’s plenty going on in Rosen’s columns these days. Unfortunately, nearly all of it is irrational, dishonest, or both.