US Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens had already telegraphed his intention to retire while Obama is president, so it was only a matter of when.
The WaPo reports today that he has now informed the president that he will retire at the end of the Court’s current term. Why now? On the surface, the timing seems pretty routine:
Stevens said he was announcing now so that the president would have time to make a nomination and the Senate to confirm in time for the start of the court's new term next October.
But why this year? Stevens has been quite clear that he didn’t want a Republican to name his successor, so in theory his retirement could have, for example, waited until next year.
Then again, the Obama White House senses an ill wind blowing among the electorate, a wind that might sweep some or all of the Democrat majority out of the Senate in November.
Even if the Dems retain their majority, the loss of just a few seats would force Obama to choose a nominee that is far less radical than he would like. Hence, given the uncertainties of November, there is no better time than now for Obama to get a justice more to his liking.
Is there any serious doubt that Stevens is deferring to the political calculations of the administration?
Yes, yes, I know, it happens with Republican presidents too.
The notion of an independent judiciary is long dead – yet another symptom of the twilight years of the American republic.