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Veja, Brazil

Presidents and Supreme Authorities

By Caio Blinder

Translated By Elizabeth Woolley

29 March 2012

Edited by Adam Talkington

Brazil - Veja - Original Article (Portuguese)

Whatever decision the U.S. Supreme Court makes on the constitutionality of the Obama health legislation — expected at the end of June — it will mobilize Democrats and Republicans, or, if you prefer, liberals and conservatives. It is going to heat up the election even more. It will be a historic decision for the court, basically about the relationship between the state and its citizens. And there will be a lot of noise because of, among other things, the obvious lesson in the importance of the court's supremacy in national life. With near certainty, we will be able to say that the next president (either Democrat Barack Obama, again, or his Republican opponent) will nominate at least one judge for the Supreme Court, a voice on decisions that will influence the life of the nation for generations, perhaps forever.

The profile of today's Supreme Court is more conservative. In 2005, George W. Bush, then Republican president, dealt a masterstroke in selecting a new judge to preside over the court. John Roberts was initially nominated for the open vacancy with the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, but Bush expedited the promotion with the death of the chief justice, William Rehnquist, when Roberts still had not had his name confirmed by the Senate. Why was this a masterstroke? Roberts is a whippersnapper.

Only 57 years old, he will preside over the court for decades. The job is rejuvenation (one debate involves a time limit for remaining in the job and compulsory retirement at a certain age); however, there is always a morbid interest in the members of the court. And now the focus is on liberal Justice Ruth Ginsburg. At 81 years of age, she is the grandma of the court (she has been in the role since 1993). The youngest, nominated by Obama, is Elena Kagan, 51 years old and in the job since 2010.

It will be agony for the Democrats and for Ruth Ginsburg, in her weakened health, if a Republican occupies the White House with a victory in the November election, and, even worse, if the Republicans win the Senate. Now, is it worth it to better understand the motives for getting out in November?



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