Friday afternoon, CNN anchor Rick Sanchez observed that since “Obama is essentially replacing...a more liberal judge with what will eventually probably be a liberal judge doesn't really change things a lot,” but, he contended, a President McCain would have caused an “extreme” shift, as if one more non-liberal on the court would cause an “extreme” change: “If John McCain were the President of the United States today, this court would be changing in extreme ways, wouldn't it?” Of course, if McCain were President there wouldn't now be an opening on the court and it presumes McCain would nominate a conservative.
Sanchez's formulation, in which had cited RNC Chairman Michael Steele's point that Supreme Court openings are why conservatives should have supported McCain, came just after CNN's legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, described the court's current make up as consisting of “four very conservative justices” and four just plain “liberal justices” -- apparently not “very” liberal.
From about 3:38 PM EDT on the Friday, May 1 CNN Newsroom:
RICK SANCHEZ: Jeff, let me ask you a question about balance on the court, because that seems to be the one issue that fascinates most Americans. Which way will the court go? To the left, the right, more to the middle? Does this change things at all or will it?
JEFFREY TOOBIN: Well, probably not immediately. The court is very polarized now. There are four very conservative justices: Chief Justice Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito. There are four liberal justices: Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg and Bryer. Anthony Kennedy is in the middle. So Souter's departure, he will almost certainly be replaced by someone who shares, generally, his judicial philosophy. So in the short term the results of the cases probably won't change that much. But the Supreme Court's not about the short term. It's the long term. And Obama may well have many appointments, so the fact that there's not going to be a change right away doesn't mean that if, over the course of his four or eight years, he could completely reshape the Supreme Court.
SANCHEZ: So, you know, A.B. [Stoddard of The Hill] Michael Steele, when I heard him this morning on the Bill Bennett Show, he was correct. I mean, the fact that Obama is essentially replacing -- and I'm going to use these terms loosely -- but a more liberal judge with what will eventually probably be a liberal judge doesn't really change things a lot, but if John McCain were the President of the United States today, this court would be changing in extreme ways, wouldn't it?