And The Nominee Is....

More
If you can answer these questions to your satisfaction, you can produce your own short list.  Forget speculation and leaks, forget the flavor of the week. Put yourself in President Obama's mind -- his curious, strategic, long-term-thinking mind -- and ask the questions he'll be asking himself. 

1. When did Obama start to think about this?

As early as November, he met with leading advisers about his first pick. That's when dossiers were first compiled. Right after he was elected, and before he experienced the brain-changing duties of being president, Obama had some specific candidates in mind...

2. How many other Supreme Court appointments does Obama believe he will get to make? 1? 2?

Why this matters: if Obama knows that he'll have another pick, or has strong reason to believe that he will, he'll face less immediate pressure about using gender and race as criteria when choosing his first nominee. 

3. Does Obama want a confirmation fight with Republicans?

My guess is: no.

4. Will there be a tug between who Obama wants to nominate on the one hand and the obvious person he should nominate on the other?

The Obama legacy, politics, precedent -- all will factor into Obama's final decision.  My sense is that he does have a favorite candidate, but he is not convinced that he should nominate that person. 

5. If Obama narrows his short list to two people -- a white guy and an Hispanic female -- are gender and ethnicity going to play a role?

Not sure.

6. Who is the most brilliant, confirmable, center-left jurist alive today who is younger than 60?

Why this matters: Obama advisers expect Obama to pick the person he considers the most brilliant, confirmable, center-left jurist alive today.  And young enough to make an indelible imprint on constitutional jurisprudence.

7. Who is the most brilliant, conformable, center-left jurist alive today who practices west of the Mississippi?

Just a hunch about the short list.

8. Of sitting judges and practicing lawyers, who would be most able to persuade Anthony Kennedy by sheer force of argument?

This one is obvious, but crucial: the person must be able to help liberals win cases; Kennedy is a persuadable vote; a progressive, pragmatic justice is the type of person who could win Kennedy's favor. 

9. Does Obama have a history of rewarding his friends? Will he be inclined to pick someone he already knows? 

10. Think about the first picture of Obama and the nominee. What will it look like? What will Obama want that picture to project?

Jump to comments
Presented by

Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Politics

Just In