Barack Obama made a surprise appearance at White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’ daily briefing to “say a few words about [David Souter’s] decision to retire from the Supreme Court.”
Video below, followed by a partial transcription under the fold.
Throughout his two decades on the Supreme Court he has shown what it means to be a fair minded and independent judge. He came to the bench with no particular ideology. He never sought to promote a political agenda. And he consistently defied labels and rejected absolutes, focusing instead on just one task….
He approached judging as he approaches life with a feverish work ethic and a good sense of humor, with integrity, equanimity, and compassion–the hallmark of not just being a good judge, but of being a good person. I am incredibly grateful for his dedicated service. I told him as much when we spoke….
The process of selecting someone to replace Justice Souter is among my most serious responsibilities as president. So i will seek somebody with a sharp and independent mind and a record of excellence and integrity. I will seek someone who understands that justice isn’t about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a casebook, it is also about how are laws effect the daily realities of peoples lives–whether they can make a living and care for their families, whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome and their own nation. I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with peoples’ hopes and struggles, as an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes. I will seek someone who is dedicated to the rule of law, who honors our Constitutional traditions, who respects the integrity of the judicial process, and the appropriate limits of the judicial role….
As I make this decision I intend to consult with members of both parties across the political spectrum and it is my hope that we can swear in our new supreme court justice in time for him or her to be seated by the first monday in October when the court’s new term begins. And with that I would like you to give Robert a tough time again.
Now seems like as good a time as any to begin over-parsing his words. Or better yet, to begin parsing how others will parse the his words. So I bolded some of Obama’s key phrases. Was he taking a swipe at George W. Bush’s appointees? Is he signaling his intent to appoint dread “activist judges”? Do white men need not apply?
I have no idea. But I’d wager that others think they do, and will be telling us all about it in the next few hours.