Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer made it official on Thursday: he's retiring from the bench. In an appearance with President Joe Biden in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, Breyer – a Bill Clinton appointee – briefly gave some thoughts about the country whose laws he presided over for 28 years:
Breyer: "We have a country that is based on human rights, democracy, and so forth. But I'll tell you what Lincoln thought, and what Washington thought, and what people today still think: it's an experiment."
Gary Bauer of American Values says Breyer's pending retirement gives President Biden some cover as it diverts America's attention away from his floundering administration for a bit.
"It gives him an opportunity to change the subject," the conservative spokesman explains. "He's been on the defensive on a host of various issues. On this one he'll be able to show his loyalty again to the left wing of his party."
Breyer had been under some pretty heavy pressure to step down so Biden could refresh the seat on the Supreme Court. Bauer argues the justice may have slightly caved to the demands.
"Breyer may have told the White House that he intended to announce he was leaving later next year, and the White House intentionally leaked it so that they could begin the process of filling that spot with another reliable far left-wing vote," Bauer tells AFN.
As he vowed during his campaign, Biden plans to nominate a black woman to the seat – and he confirmed that on Thursday:
Biden: "I've made no decision except one: The person I will nominate will be someone with extraordinary qualifications, character, experience and integrity. And that person will be the first black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court. It's long overdue, in my view."
Bauer finds that a bit ironic.
"The Supreme Court has a case before it right now about whether it's constitutional for universities to be admitting students on the basis of race," he notes. "I think the court is likely to vote it unconstitutional for the university to do that – but here's the president of the United States doing it with his court appointment."
In an earlier interview with AFN, Project 21 co-chairman Horace Cooper also took issue with Biden's selection criteria: race and gender.
"[If he does that,] someone will have filled a quota for the president," Cooper offered, "and that's why this person is selected. Not because they're the smartest, not because they're the most talented, but instead merely because they fit the bill."
Biden said Thursday that he plans to announce his nominee by the end of February. Names that have been mentioned include DC Circuit Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger, and U.S. District Judge Michelle Childs. The general consensus is that regardless who he nominates to replace the liberal Breyer, it won't change the landscape of the Supreme Court.