BuzzFeed Hits Obama From the Left: Too Many ‘Straight White Men’ on Supreme Court

In an interview streamed on YouTube and Facebook Live on Monday, Buzzfeed News legal editor Chris Geidner grilled President Obama over his nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court: “...a large part of your legacy on judicial nominations has been diversifying the federal bench....You had an opportunity with this nomination to, for the first time in the nation’s history, if the justice was confirmed, to have a Supreme Court that was not a majority of straight white men. Why didn’t you take that opportunity?”

In a follow-up question, Geidner again pressed Obama from left, fretting that Garland was not liberal enough: “There were some liberal lawyers, including David Menschel, who said that they had the same concern about Judge Garland, given his prosecutor past, which you’ve obviously touted in his nomination. He said he’d rather have an eight-member court. What do you say to people who that concern about this nomination?”

Geidner began the sit-down by touting Republican efforts to block Garland’s appointment as a “gamble” and wondered if Donald Trump becoming the presumptive GOP nominee was “the best thing that’s happened to you getting this nominee through?”

Obama replied: “Republicans are looking at a Republican nominee who many of them say isn't qualified to be president, much less appoint somebody. And it seems to me that they'd be better off going ahead and giving a hearing and a vote to somebody that they themselves in the past have said is well qualified, is fair.”

Tuesday’s CBS This Morning seized on that response, as co-host Charlie Rose declared: “The President Monday offered a new critique of the Republican. He said Trump should make Senate Republicans reconsider their opposition to his Supreme Court nominee....The President also said if there was not a vacancy on the Court, Monday's birth control decision might have been different.”

Earlier on the morning show, fellow co-host Gayle King reported on the high court deciding to “punt” on the ObamaCare contraception mandate:

Both sides are claiming victory today after a short-handed Supreme Court decided not to rule on a controversial birth control case. Faith-based group sued over ObamaCare rules that mandate contraception coverage. The justices decided unanimously to send this case back to the lower courts. That avoids a possible deadlock. The eight justices have struggled at times to find a majority following the death of Antonin Scalia.         

Wrapping up the BuzzFeed exchange on Monday, Geidner wrung his hands over the number of legal challenges to Obama’s unilateral executive actions:  

There’s been this effort from states, from individuals, from the House, to take action against you and go to the courts against your administrative actions. Do you think that this is something that’s unique to your presidency? Do you think that this is part of an emerging pattern of how states and others are going to be dealing with the government?

Here is a transcript of Geidner’s questions to Obama on May 16:

2:50 PM ET

(...)

CHRIS GEIDNER [LEGAL EDITOR, BUZZFEED NEWS]: Thank you so much for taking the time. We’re here on Facebook Live. Your first interview on Facebook Live, on YouTube as well, to talk about your Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. Obviously, it – we’re now two months to the day since you and the Vice President and Judge Garland stood in the Rose Garden talking about his nomination and what you were looking for from the Court. Today we obviously saw from the Court what happens, we saw a court that sent back all of these cases regarding the accommodation for religious non-profits with the contraception mandate. So where are we? Where are we with this nomination?

(...)

GEIDNER: I mean, Chairman Grassley of the Judiciary Committee has acknowledged that this is a gamble, what the Republicans are doing. With – you mentioned the nomination of Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee – is that – you cited to it just now – is that the best thing that’s happened to you getting this nominee through?

(...)

GEIDNER: You obviously – it’s not just from Republicans. You’ve spent a large part of your legacy on judicial nominations has been diversifying the federal bench. You’ve appointed more than 150 nominees who have been confirmed who are not straight white men. You had an opportunity with this nomination to, for the first time in the nation’s history, if the justice was confirmed, to have a Supreme Court that was not a majority of straight white men. Why didn’t you take that opportunity?

(...)

GEIDNER: Just this past week, the Court split 4-4 on a decision on whether or not to allow an execution to go forward in Alabama. There were four justices, a lot of people said if Justice Scalia had still been on the Court and voting, that the execution probably would have gone forward. There were some liberal lawyers, including David Menschel, who said that they had the same concern about Judge Garland, given his prosecutor past, which you’ve obviously touted in his nomination. He said he’d rather have an eight-member court. What do you say to people who that concern about this nomination?

(...)

GEIDNER: You talk about the important issues that judges are gonna need to be deciding. Obviously in recent weeks there’s been a lot of attention on transgender people and obviously your attorney general spoke very forcefully about the lawsuit that the administration has brought against North Carolina. You followed up with guidance that came from the Education Department for all schools. There were governors who responded to that by saying that local officials should disregard that guidance. What do you have to say to those governors?

(...)

GEIDNER: One last question, we’ve got our Facebook Live audience here, YouTube audience. You’ve obviously seen a lot with the courts and the judiciary in your time in office that has probably change your views since you were a law professor, since you were doing that. There’s been this effort from states, from individuals, from the House, to take action against you and go to the courts against your administrative actions. Do you think that this is something that’s unique to your presidency? Do you think that this is part of an emerging pattern of how states and others are going to be dealing with the government?

(...)

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is the Senior News Analyst for MRC