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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Koh Star

Kagan seems like the odds on favorite to replace Stevens on the Supreme Court, but if I were looking for a dark horse candidate, Harold Koh would be that guy. Here's the case:

1) the "ground breaker" narrative: first Asian-American (Korean) on the high court; this always sells with the media framing and would help with a minority demo (albeit small) that leans GOP. It could also make the GOP look petty and racist if they freak out or use an unprecedented filibuster, reinforcing their most damaging stereotype. They'll have to tread more carefully.

2) the "personal" narrative: great family story about parents fleeing dictatorship and persecution; helps with that Obama theme of knowing the difficulties of ordinary people, etc.

3) intellectual heavyweight: Harvard Law grad, Dean of Yale Law School, served under Dem and GOP admins, serious record of scholarship, and expertise on national security and human rights issues. He cannot be dismissed an "unqualified" and would rally liberals in the base looking for a potential rock star.

4) liberal with "bipartisanship" cred: he's clearly a man of the left, but he's won praise for his conservative outreach at Yale and relative moderation on key issues. He'd have at least some conservative cover from witnesses in the hearings, if not from the Senators themselves.

5) international law focus: he's been a pioneer on this topic and would (a) reach out to swing vote Kennedy, who has strong sympathies here, while (b) providing a strong answer to Scalia and Thomas's hatred of non-national sources of legal consultation. Flip side: this WILL be the main right wing freak out. Yet they're going to freak out anyway, and this may be a good thing to get them riled up over since it could provoke them to the extremism that might discredit them with the broad middle of the electorate. Obama usually wins when he looks calm and reasonable and they look like Palin-Beck ragers.

Obama's likely to play this safe and conserve capital. That said, if he decides he's going to get a fight no matter what, Koh would be a pretty good guy to rally behind. Lots of upside, and his fundamentals look sound. He'd be my pick. (Gut pick, that is--I vetted for a whole thirty seconds!)

3 Comments:

At 6:08 AM, Blogger Number Three said...

I don't know. The international law fight doesn't seem like one Obama would want to have. Plus, "no judicial experience" is too easy.

I think that it's Wood. No surprises this time.

 
At 10:55 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Having met Koh, I can say that I would be truly shocked if he were the nominee. Placed in a semi-private setting, he says one controversial thing after another. A prime candidate for borking.

 
At 12:35 AM, Blogger tenaciousmcd said...

Don't know Koh, but will belatedly agree. Wood looks more and more likely. Kagan's star has faded a bit, though not out of it yet.

 

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