Clinton choice for the Supreme Court is...

THE PERFECT

March 29, 1993|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

THE PERFECT Clinton choice for the Supreme Court is someone who can be confirmed quickly and without any fuss.

Why? Because conservatives and Republicans, still simmering over how Democrats worked over nominees Robert Bork (who was defeated) and Clarence Thomas (who won Senate approval narrowly). They're spoiling for a fight.

The right wing Free Congress Foundation, with the apparent approval of Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole and Judiciary Committee ranking Republican, Orrin Hatch, has established a monitoring group to do "opposition research" (look for dirt) on likely nominees. Its adviser is Bork!

According to Washington columnists Evans & Novak, New York Gov. Mario Cuomo is "most likely" to get the nomination -- unless a "blockbuster" possibility arises.

I wouldn't think so. President Clinton says his nominee must be "someone with a big heart." That lets Cuomo out. His brain is bigger than his heart. He explained his decision not to run for president last year this way: "My heart tells me, 'Mario, take your best shot, whether you win, lose or draw,' but my head is telling me [not to]."

Except for this lack of heart and the fact that Senator Dole is already rubbing his hands in public at the prospect of using Cuomo to attack Democratic liberalism in high-profile televised hearings, the New York governor would be a good justice. That is because he has the qualification this court most needs. He is a long-time, high-level politician.

There hasn't been a governor on the court since Chief Justice Earl Warren (California) retired in 1969. There hasn't been a senator since Associate Justice Hugo Black (Alabama) retired in 1971. Both were great justices.

If the perfect Clinton nominee is a liberal who could get confirmed with ease, who better than -- a liberal senator! The Senate never turns down its own. What never? Well, hardly ever. In 1853 lame duck President Millard Fillmore nominated a senator, and the Senate refused to confirm him. Every other senatorial nominee has been approved, even when strongly opposed from outside The Beltway.

Actually there was no Beltway when Hugo Black was confirmed (1937), nor when the last person with Senate experience was. That was ex-Sen. Sherman Minton of Indiana in 1949.

Are there potential justices in today's Senate? If so, that would be a more perfect Clinton choice -- easy to confirm, qualified in a special and needed way.

A White House aide told Evans & Novak that Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell is a "blockbuster." George would be more perfect. He's a liberal, a former federal judge and an ethnic group never represented on the court before: Arab-American. His mother was Lebanese (and his father was an Irish orphan raised by a Lebanese family).

Diversity-minded Clinton couldn't do better.

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