Arlen Specter’s Weird Idea

This, from the New York Times, is weird:

Senator Arlen Specter, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, suggested on Sunday that President Bush could name Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who is retiring from the Supreme Court, to the position of chief justice if it opens up.

“I think it would be very tempting if the president said to Justice O’Connor, ‘You could help the country now,’ ” Mr. Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania and a pivotal player in any confirmation hearings, said in an interview on the CBS program Face the Nation. “She has received so much adulation that a confirmation proceeding would be more like a coronation, and she might be willing to stay on for a year or so.”

How can Senator Specter hold the position he has and not realize that the right would oppose (tooth and nail) her confirmation? (And not just because it is his idea, as Senator Specter seemed to imply in the Washington Post.)

Second, how would it help the country? The Senator’s suggestion that O’Connor could serve as Chief Justice for a year would mean two Chief Justice confirmation battles during President Bush’s second term instead of one (IF the Chief Justice job happened to be vacant, which, at the time of the Senator’s comment, it wasn’t). Confirmation battles probably do serve a useful educational function (the press cries “woe is us” because they are “divisive,” but let’s be realistic — they are a debate about ideas, not a battle with bullets), but I have the impression that Senator Specter was not thinking of that.

Third, O’Connor’s resignation becomes effective at the time her successor is confirmed, so her replacement as associate justice would have to be confirmed before she could be appointed chief justice, anyway.

Finally, aside from Senator Specter, who really thinks President Bush is going to waste one of his Supreme Court nominations on a 75-year-old?

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