Again, whether or not it’s “politics as usual”, how does that reflect on Obama? If the GOP are simply playing “payback” (deserved or not), how is that a failure of Obama?
Both sides track judges’ decisions. Some are “reliable” for the Right, some are “reliable” for the Left, both can trot out teams of scholars who’ll argue that their respective candidates are just what the Constitution ordered (and that their opposite numbers are “idealogically motivated”). There are also plenty of judges whose records are not so easily categorizable.
If a President (any President) names a candidate for the Supremes that is known to register prominently on either the far Right or far Left side of the balance, of course he’s got to expect a fight. But if he knows he’s going to have a fight on his hands regardless of the nominee’s (perceived) leanings, WHY NOT swing for the fences? That doesn’t seem to be what Obama’s doing, however. (The GOP certainly couldn’t expect him to pick a nominee who leans noticeably to the Right, any more than they would have allowed a Republican President to nominate a judge who leans noticably Left.)
Kagan isn’t coming from a lower Court, so of course she doesn’t have the paper trail of opinions behind her for everyone to rate. But she’s being promoted as a “consensus-builder”, and if she can make a good case that she’d actually serve that function then it seems she’s a good choice.
I’ve wondered what would have happened if Obama had given the nod to someone like Vaughn Walker, of the Ninth Circuit. He was originally a Republican appointee, he’s considered to have Libertarian leanings, and he’s taken his knocks from the Left as being too friendly to corporate interests, but my perception is that he’s generally respected. He’s also openly gay. Those would probably end up being highly interesting hearings…