Garland has been a Supreme Court short-lister for many years, but he has never made the cut during the Obama years. His qualifications for the post have never been questioned. First appointed to the DC Circuit in 1997 by President Bill Clinton, Garland has served as the chief judge since 2013. (The Senate confirmed Garland originally on a 76-to-23 vote, with 32 Republicans supporting him.) He's a double Harvard grad—Harvard College and Harvard Law—and clerked for Supreme Court's famous liberal lion, Justice William Brennan. He spent many years in the Justice Department as a prosecutor and oversaw the prosecutions of Unabomber Ted Kaczynsky and Oklahoma City bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. He spent some time as a litigator in the private sector as a partner at the white-shoe firm of Arnold & Porter.
Garland has been married to Lynn Garland for 29 years. She worked for a defense contractor at the time she married Garland, but has a long legal background. Her grandfather was a justice on the New York State Supreme Court.
Garland is a fairly conservative choice for Obama, but opponents are already pointing to his rulings in a major gun control case in 2007 as a sign that he's a left-wing radical. In that case, Garland voted to reconsider the Hellercase, in which a three-judge panel struck down the District of Columbia's strict ban on handgun possession. Garland didn't succeed, and the case went to the US Supreme Court. The highest court then upheld the ruling in a controversial 5-4 decision in 2008, finding that the Constitution guarantees an individual right to bear arms.
If the game is to show that not even a widely-praised moderate can be confirmed by this GOP, then Garland is the perfect pick, and that's the point.
If that's the worst critics can find, Garland would typically still be confirmed. But this isn't an ordinary confirmation process. Senate Republicans, including the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), have vowed to deny Obama's Supreme Court nominee a hearing—and forget about a vote. (Severino's outfit is spending heavily on ads to put pressure on the committee not to waver from that position.) That may be one reason why Obama chose Garland, who doesn't meet any of the demands of liberal and civil rights groups for an Obama nominee who would add diversity to the court. Garland is a political sacrificial lamb for the White House.
At 63, Garland is more than a decade older than Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. was when he was nominated to the court in 2005. In a normal year, Garland would never have been picked because of his age and demographic profile. But he seems like a logical choice at a time when whomever Obama nominates isn't likely to get confirmed. Fortunately for Garland, he will probably come away from this brutal nomination process largely unscathed, and he will get to keep his lifetime appointment on the DC Circuit. So he is taking one for the team. That will leave other potential candidates, such as DC Circuit Judge Sri Srinvasan, unblemished and ready for a real nomination if the presidency remains in Democratic hands, when the political climate isn't so toxic and Republicans are not hell-bent on obstruction.
And that only happens after a Clinton win, and the damage from blocking Garland for 8 months flips the Senate back to the Democrats. Then we get someone like Srinivasan on the court as one of her appointees.
I'm cool with this plan.
Please proceed, GOP Senate.