Washington: Rejecting criticism that US President Barack Obama missed a golden opportunity to bring in diversity in the Supreme Court bench and could have chosen someone younger, the White House asserted that he nominated “the best” to serve on the apex court.
“The President’s commitment to the principle of ensuring we have a judiciary that looks like the rest of the country is rock-solid,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at his daily news conference.
“And the other principle that he has strongly adhered to is making sure that he’s choosing the best person for the job, and I think he’s demonstrated over the course of his seven years in office that it is absolutely possible to do both,” he added.
Earnest was responding to questions yesterday as to why Obama overlooked the strong credentials for the judge from diverse communities including African Americans, Indian Americans and Asian Americans even as some of them figured on his short-list.
“I can tell you that the President considered a diverse array of candidates, and I think that’s what you’d expect considering the diverse array of individuals that the White House consulted in advance of the President making his decision. The President took that advice quite seriously and considered a diverse array of candidates,” he said.
“The President ultimately settled on Chief Judge Garland for one reason, and one reason only, and that is simply that he believes that Chief Judge (Merrick) Garland is the best person in America to do that job. And that’s how the President made the decision,” Earnest said.
He said that the President himself has talked on a number of occasions about how important it is to ensure that the federal bench is as diverse as the rest of the country.
“When you take a look at the President’s track record, it’s quite strong. That starts with the two previous appointments that the President has made to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court. He appointed the first Hispanic to the Supreme Court in the form of Justice Sotomayor,” Earnest said.
He pointed out that Obama appointed the third and fourth
women to serve on the Supreme Court in Justice Sotomayor and Justice Kagan, besides appointing 117 minorities to the federal judiciary which is more than any other President.
“He has appointed 26 African American women to the federal bench. That is more than any other President. He’s appointed 37 Hispanics to the federal bench. That is more than any other President.
“He’s appointed 20 Asians to the federal bench. That is more than any other President. And he has appointed 11 LGBT judges. That is more than every other President combined,” the spokesman said.
Earnest also refuted the impression that age played a factor in Obama’s nomination process.
“The President, in choosing Judge Garland, chose somebody who’s 63. Some of his other candidates were roughly 15 years younger. If this candidate, Judge Garland, is confirmed, that means the President’s legacy on the Supreme Court will be significantly shorter than it could have been if he had chosen someone who is younger.
“Why not take that opportunity? To what extent did age play a role in this decision?” he was asked.
“I’m not aware that age played any role in the President’s decision-making,” Earnest said.
“Maybe there are some people who would suggest that it would have, but the President was looking for the very best person for the job. And regardless of age, the President was focused on choosing somebody who has the proper temperament and the unquestioned legal credentials and a commitment to public service to do this job,” he argued.