Back in the mid-1990s a conservative editor of an important daily newspaper editorial page (they fit in a phone booth then and now) told me that his biggest problem wasn’t finding good conservative columnists to print, but a good liberal columnist to print. This was shortly after Murray Kempton died, and he seemed the last of the interesting old liberal writers.
In recent years I’ve noticed that the WaPo’s Richard Cohen went off the liberal reservation regularly, and today he does so with his column about the mediocrity of soon-to-be Justice Sotomayor. Sample:
She is, as everyone has pointed out, in the mainstream of American liberalism, a stream both intellectually shallow and preoccupied with the past. . . This is the sad state of both liberalism and American politics. First-class legal brains are not even nominated lest some senator break into hives at the prospect of encountering a genuinely new idea. The ceiling is further lowered by the need to season the court with diversity, a wonderful idea as long as brilliance is not compromised. The result has been the rout of sexism: The women are as mediocre as the men. From all we know, Sotomayor is no Scalia. She is no Thurgood Marshall, either, or even a John Roberts, who is leading the court in his own direction. She will be confirmed. But if she is not, liberalism will not have lost much of a champion or a thinker.
There were lots of other women jurists Obama might have chosen who could go toe-to-toe with Scalia, and also sway the impressionable Justice Kennedy. (Sotomayor is likely to antagonize him if anything.) The only thing Cohen misses here in his column is the conclusion that Obama is unimaginative and, dare we say it, lacking in audacity when it comes to Supreme Court appointments.