Hillary to the Supreme Court?

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The short list to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens doesn't appear to include Hillary Clinton. But a number of smart commentators, and at least one Republican senator, Orrin Hatch, think it should. I've written a lot about Clinton over the years, and I'm intrigued by the idea. My reaction is twofold: as a purely political matter, I don't see how this makes sense for Obama. He'd lose a good secretary of state and touch off a culture war over her confirmation (note that Hatch didn't say he'd vote for her). The fact that true liberal ideologues don't appear on Obama's short list suggests to me that the White House is seeking to avoid such a war.

On the other hand, I have no doubt Clinton would serve ably on the court. The upshot of the Atlantic cover story I wrote three years ago about her Senate tenure was that, while she didn't make for a compelling presidential candidate (a controversial assessment at the time), she had proved herself highly capable as a senator. She was much more effective in the cloakroom than on the stump, and showed a flair for working with conservatives--a talent that would presumably carry over to the chamber. A lot of the pregame coverage of the upcoming court fight suggests that an ability to work with conservatives is a quality Obama prizes in a nominee. My own feeling is that this sort of sentiment is popular to express but rarely acted upon. I'm skeptical about how much "persuading" can happen in the court, just as I'm skeptical about it happening in Congress (at least some of Clinton's bipartisanship, let's remember, derived from the assumption that she would soon be president).

But not everyone's a cynic. Perhaps we're in for a second shocking announcement from Obama concerning Hillary Clinton. 

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Joshua Green is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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