Adam Serwer has a good follow-up to Jeff Toobin’s article about D.C. Circuit Court nominee Sri Srinivasan. The key question — is there any particular reason that Democrats should consider him a desirable Supreme Court nominee?
The White House has been pushing Srinivasan’s nomination to the DC Circuit Court harder than any non-Supreme Court pick. Srinivasan has more bipartisan legal muscle behind him than any other federal court nominee in recent memory. Legal elites of all political stripes consider him one of the best lawyers in the country. But no one really knows what he believes.
Admittedly, the fact that Srinivasan has generally been part of the Democratic team is a kind of evidence for his general worldview. Nominating Srinivasan, like nominating Kagan, is unlikely to lead to a debacle on the level of Souter for Republicans. When Sununu vouched for Souter as a “conservative,” he wasn’t even exactly wrong; it’s just that Souter represented forms of conservatism (New England Republicanism, Harlan-style common law incrementalism) that had nothing to do with conservatism as it existed at the national level in 1990. Souter wasn’t part of the national Republican team. To the extent that Bush I cared at all about getting conservatives on the court, it was just a mistake that’s unlikely to be repeated by anyone.
Even so, as long as Democrats believe that their Supreme Court nominees shouldn’t have any real paper trail — even though Republicans can nominate people with lengthy paper trails demonstrating their total commitment to conservative orthodoxy — there’s going to be a negative surprise eventually. If not the equivalent of Souter, at least the equivalent of O’Connor or Blackmun.