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After a fun and successful interview with Kathy G. a while back, I decided to try to turn the idea into a running installment of sorts here. So with that in mind, I recently interviewed Publius of ObWi fame and below is that interview. Some of the material is dated to the Democratic Convention but most of it is vintage Publius, which is to say extremely insightful. Enjoy.

BJ: You’re on the ground in Denver, what’s the mood there with the crowd, the delegates, the onlookers, and just how badly is cable news misrepresenting things in their coverage?

Publius: I’ve spent more time going to panels than wandering around with the delegates, so I don’t have anything other than anecdotal evidence.  But as for the great Obama/Clinton feud, I haven’t heard anyone talking about it — everyone seems united, and more concerned with the urgent business of finding parties to go to.  It’s funny though — we’re in a bubble here, so I didn’t realize that this was the dominant media narrative.  I watched cable news for the first time in 2 days last night, and it was just striking how utterly obsessed they were with the Clinton/Obama angle.

BJ: What was the reaction on the floor to Hillary’s speech? Bill’s?

Publius: Well, you make the dubious assumption that they let me on me on the floor during those speeches.  I actually wasn’t there for Hillary (my co-blogger and I had to alternate nights), but everyone I talked to thought it was great.  Same deal with Bill’s.  But lots of people today were praising Brian Schweitzer’s speech — and John Kerry’s speech was also very well-received.

BJ: What’s your overall impression of the convention thus far, not having to watch it in between talking head blather?

Publius: The convention was really fun.  I’m not sure conventions have any real purpose, but everyone should go to at least one.  Once there, you have a lot of options regardless of whether you have credentials.  If you want a more substantive experience, there are dozens of interesting panels and roundtables.  If you want a more “substance” experience, well, there are lots of parties.  But I particularly enjoyed just walking around and interacting with so many politically committed and engaged people – which includes fellow bloggers. As for the news coverage, it was jarring to see how much they were singularly focused on the Obama and Clinton tension.  I literally didn’t hear a single person discussing this issue, other than in the context of complaining about the news.

BJ: What do you think of the Sarah Palin selection?

Publius: Very surprised — in fact, I’m still trying to sort my thoughts out on it.  But on first take, I think it’s a good short-term choice, but a wretched long-time choice.  First, it completely undercuts what I’ve always thought to be McCain’s strongest argument — Obama’s inexperience.  Second, it’s an enormous gamble — I find it hard to believe she’ll be able to stand up to the intense scrutiny over the next couple of months.  And who knows what will turn up in the meantime.   I hate to use the word “serious,” but it just doesn’t seem like a very serious choice.  I mean, she was the mayor of a town of 9,000 and has been governor for a very short time of a thinly populated state that enjoys a budget situation that prevents the Governor from having to make tough choices.  Those aren’t presidential credentials.

BJ: You write a lot about the Supreme Court, how likely do you think a shift in the court under an Obama administration would be, and what is the biggest legal issue on the horizon, in your opinion?

Publius: Not much of a shift actually.  An Obama victory (at least in the first term) would just maintain the status quo.  That’s mostly a function of the Justices’ age.  For instance, I suspect both Stevens and Ginsburg are the most likely to retire in the next four years.  For that reason, an Obama victory is necessary just to “hold serve” so to speak. As for the biggest legal issue on the horizon, I’m afraid that’s above my pay grade.  But I think what’s really at stake is not so much a single issue, but whether a more sweeping conservative methodology will finally get five votes.  At present, we essentially have a 4-4-1 Court, with Kennedy as the perpetual tie-breaker.  If, however, the conservative wing could get a 5th vote through a McCain nomination, we really could see a revolution in constitutional jurisprudence. The fear then is that this new methodology would command a 5-majority vote, and that the methodology would then applied across the board to a number of different issues.  So that’s what’s really at stake. That said, I still think that Alito and Roberts are wild cards.  They’ve given signals in past opinions that they’re not crazy about throwing out decades of established precedent.  Scalia and Thomas, by contrast, could care less about that.  So assuming McCain wins and gets a nomination, it will be interesting to see how far Roberts and Alito are willing to go.



BJ: One thing that’s great about reading blogs is that, because people have different issues they care about and come from different places, they’ve got perspective on people you don’t necessarily here about everyday. So I asked this when I interviewed Kathy and it was pretty interesting, so I’ll put the question to you to; tell me someone I don’t know, whether they’re a local/state government official or an obscure member of Congress I ought to keep an eye on, or that deserves a higher profile.

Publius: One person that I would watch is Representative Artur Davis in Alabama.  I first noticed him during the Monica Goodling hearing, in which he was the only one who questioned her effectively (I wrote about him here).  He’s a former Assistant US Attorney, double Harvard, and he’s been a big Obama backer.  I think he’s a rising star in the Party.

BJ: Last question, since you’re one of my go-to-court watchers, who are some people you’d like to see a hypothetical President Obama appoint to the Supreme Court?

Publius: Hmm, interesting question.  Personally, I’d like to see Hillary Clinton nominated.  I think it would especially fitting if she replaced Justice Ginsburg.  My hunch is that she’s a bit bored with the Senate, and she’s certainly qualified to be more than a Senator.  It would probably trigger a culture war of epic proportions though. Another name tossed around is Cass Sunstein.  He’d probably be pretty good, though he’s been making some semi-annoying moves lately (e.g., writing for AEI, complaining about the mean ol’ Internets).  He might just be trying to position himself politically for a nomination, but all of this is obviously speculation.

I tend to obsess more over FCC nominations.  Personally, I’d love to see a really bold nomination there.  Maybe someone like Lawrence Lessig.

You can read more of Publius at Obsidian Wings




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