John Paul Stevens, 89 years old and a liberal fixture on the U.S. Supreme Court for more than three decades, announced his retirement on Friday. His vacancy is sure to touch off a debate -- as it should -- over the philosophy of Barack Obama's judicial nominees.
Mr. Obama will spend the near future vetting potential replacements. His ultimate selection will speak volumes about his view of the U.S. Constitution and whether he embraces judges who will uphold its promise of a government of limited powers charged with protecting the liberty of its citizens.
His selection of Sonia Sotomayor for the high court was not encouraging. And consider that Mr. Obama has nominated Goodwin Liu, the 39-year-old associate dean of the law school at the University of California, Berkeley, to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
The nomination is drawing intense scrutiny, not only because Mr. Liu appears to be as far to the left as Barack Obama but because Mr. Liu has advocated many big-government liberal causes, including nationalized medicine, affirmative action and slavery reparations. He has alarmed limited-government advocates by arguing the Constitution should be interpreted based on "the evolving norms and traditions of our society," which is code for letting the federal regulatory state meddle anywhere it chooses.
Mr. Liu has an impressive biography. The child of Taiwanese immigrants, he didn't speak English till he was 6. He served as a page in the U.S. House of Representatives and then clerked for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before moving on to the San Francisco Unified School District and Bill Clinton's U.S. Department of Education. But experience in a courtroom or in the private sector? None.
Of course, Mr. Obama has the right to submit the candidate of his preference for the U.S. Supreme Court. The people elected Mr. Obama knowing full well that presidents have the power to nominate federal judges.
But senators are also fully justified in conducting a thorough review of the credentials and beliefs of Goodwin Liu and the potential replacement for Justice Stevens. The exercise will demonstrate much to the electorate about where Barack Obama still hopes to take us.
Do Americans really want their highest court to be dominated for the next 40 years by the same arrogance, the same brazen scorn for the Founding Fathers and the limited-government republic they founded, now demonstrated by Barack Obama himself?