Sources tell me that the White House is actively engaged in finding a replacement for Sandra Day O’Connor and has been engaged for several weeks.
It became clear about a month ago that Chief Justice Rehnquist, through either death or resignation, would not be returning to the Supreme Court this October. At that time, outside groups close to the White House began efforts to point the White House toward some previously considered and not fully considered choices.
Shortly thereafter, the White House Counsel’s office again picked up the list of the previously considered to press forward.
Confirming yesterday’s report, I’m told that Alberto Gonzales is not under consideration. In fact, Gonzales took himself out of the running during the first “draft” and has reiterated that he does not want to be considered. The White House is now turning its eyes toward several women, but the President is insistent that he wants the “best person” and is not prepared to make a “hurricane pick” or any other pick to satisfy particular groups. “There will be no affirmative action in the selection process,” says one source.
Of the names being mentioned, Edith Jones tops the list. A conservative fantasy and liberal nightmare, Jones has a solid conservative record on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and is on record chastising the line of cases flowing from Roe v. Wade. Also on the list is Joy Clement, not because she would be a “hurricane pick,” but because she is now a known quantity at the White House, having made it into the top three last time.
With Jones, the question remains how much the White House is actively considering her. It is my feeling that she is more on the list because of outside conservative interests than any desire by the White House to fight that battle. “Jones would solidify the President’s base, but we are unsure if we could keep 51 of our own in the Senate,” said one of those on the outside who is helping in the effort. “We’re doing the math and we’re pretty sure, but not fully sure.”
Also being pushed forward are Judges McConnell and Luttig. I’m told by a White House source that Luttig “did not leave a favorable impression in the last round, but it was more to do with personality than anything else.”
What does seem sure is that, while the White House will not reveal its cards until the President is ready, the President does want to see John Roberts on the bench before naming O’Connor’s replacement.