'Mostly harmless.'

That’s Ben Domenech’s two-word assessment of Sonia Sotomayor as a Supreme Court justice:

This is worth noting: given the chance to select Diane Wood, a brilliant legal voice and a hardened defender of unrestricted abortion rights, Obama went for the personal story that would appeal to the media instead, disappointing once again some of his supporters. It is possible, yes, that Sotomayor is personally an abortion centrist. But the pro- and anti-abortion groups should fall in normal lines on this nominee — her decisions in favor of anti-abortion policies weren’t based on opposition to Roe, and in viewing the entirety of her background, Sotomayor gives no signs of being a stealth nominee for the pro-life cause.

This is what it all comes down to, in fact. As John Yoo notes, Sotomayor gives no signs of being a threat or an asset to any particular cause. It’s unlikely that she’ll be further left than the man she’s replacing, and if she has the gift for motivating or shifting her fellow justices, she hasn’t displayed it on the Second Circuit, where even after 17 years, no one regards her as a leader. She is, in other words, unlikely to shift the Supreme Court in any direction, to any significant degree, from where it was before her arrival.

In other words, if you follow this argument then the President decided to replace Souter with another Souter. And there’s some indication that the President had some prior knowledge that Souter was retiring ahead of the official announcement, which would make this pretty much a deliberate choice.  And then there’s this clip where Sotomayor’s assistant tells her not to answer any questions; which is a somewhat interesting moment in and of itself*.  It certainly does argue for a strategy whose purpose is to give the public as little of a look at the candidate as possible – on both sides.  Including the side that is curious to know just how much Sotomayor lines up with their own pro-choice beliefs.  All of which means that I’m going to have to disagree with Ben on one point at least: if he’s right, Sotomayor is a stealth candidate.  It’s just that what she’s hiding is that there’s nothing there hiding; whenever possible, the administration’s goals apparently default to More of the Same.

This is not really reassuring; both the Presidents supporters and detractors generally operate under the assumption that the President has a plan.  Given the amount of money that we’re throwing around – and more and more, away – he had better.  The idea that he doesn’t, past of course taking the oath of office again on 01/20/2013, is infinitely more worrisome than any other scenario that I can think of…

Moe Lane

*Interestingly: the staffer at the end who made that random comment that loose lips weren’t going to sink this ship?  Senator Mikulski.  Truly, Maryland is the envy of the civilized world when it comes to our representation in Congress.

Crossposted to Moe Lane.