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Politico Chat

At 10:30, I’m going to do a reader chat in the Politico Arena.  My opening thoughts, in which I add some names to the mix, are below:

First, we shouldn’t race too quickly to the idea of a successor.  Justice Souter hasn’t even formally retired.  What most people think they know about him is the caricature of a Republican disappointment.  But they people who know him personally describe a wonderful man and tremendous public servant.  As a litigator – one who equally lost and won his vote – I can say that he is very thoughtful and super-smart.

Second, people will talk about a “short list.”  They have no idea what they are talking about.  There presumably is a fluid working list of possible candidates at the White House.  But it no doubt changes, and only a handful of people even in that building would know who is on it at any given time.  The “short list” is a dressed up way of saying “conventional wisdom.”

Third, no one knows whether the conventional wisdom is actually sound because it depends on a threshold question:  what is the President looking for in terms of vision, ideology, and background.  You can take it as a given that the President wants someone incredibly smart and qualified, and with perfect integrity.  And a woman.  And someone younger than 60.  But what about the candidate’s past experience – in politics, in judging, in academia?  What about their ability to lead?  John Roberts was the pitch perfect nominee for President Bush – he covered a lot of bases exceptionally well.  President Obama is going to face trade-offs, and if people tell you that they know what qualities he is going to value more than others, they likely are just making it up.

My bet is that – this early on – it’s a big and diverse list.  It would have some very well known judges (for example, Diane Wood and Sonia Sotomayor), academics (Elena Kagan (now Solicitor General), Pam Karlan, and Kathleen Sullivan), and politicians (Jennifer Granholm, Amy Klobuchar, Claire McCaskill, and Janet Napolitano).