Why Did Obama Choose Merrick Garland? The Supreme Court Justice Nominee Was An Obvious Choice


Speculation over who would replace Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court threw another curveball into an already rowdy election game, but Obama made a stand Wednesday when he announced U.S. Circuit Court Judge Merrick Garland as his nominee. For more than a month, Senate Republicans vowed to block any appointment made by the president, which is why Obama's choice of Garland is particularly telling.

Garland was confirmed to the federal circuit in 1997 with a 76-23 vote after being appointed by Bill Clinton two years earlier, meaning he has the ability to garner Republican support. There's no question over Garland's experience — he once clerked for the late Justice William Brennan, Jr., and oversaw investigations into high-profile cases such as the Oklahoma City bombing and the Unabomber. And at 63 years of age, he is a break from tradition. Presidents typically nominate younger judges to ensure a long tenure on the country's highest court, and Garland's nomination offers an olive branch to the GOP, that they won't be stuck with an Obama nominee for too long.

Underlying Garland's nomination is the possible (and in Republican eyes, the worse) alternative: that Hillary Clinton wins the general election and will appoint a younger and more liberal judge to the Court. Obama's message is clear: Cut your losses and take Garland, or beware of what may come in November.

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