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Imagination runs wild speculating about attorney general on high court

Political speculation is such satisfying sport.

Maybe you’ve heard Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto’s name is being suggested as a replacement for U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter. Really.

Did you also hear FBI agents have been conducting background checks on former U.S. Attorney Dan Bogden, a sign his nomination to his old job is moving forward, despite doubts about his management skills? (You might have heard that. I blogged about it last week.)

U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid’s recommendation that the conservative Bogden be returned to his old job seems to be charging along even though the senator has been told Bogden was a mediocre U.S. attorney for his six years in the Bush administration.

Certainly if Reid made a strong push for Masto, President Barack Obama wouldn’t dismiss the suggestion out of hand.

The first reaction is that Masto doesn’t have the experience, because she’s never been a judge. But Obama said he’s looking for legal acumen but he’s also looking for empathy for ordinary people. His pool isn’t restricted to judges only.

Las Vegas attorney Bob Faiss laid out his reasoning why Masto would be a good candidate for the nation’s highest court. While on President Lyndon Johnson’s staff, Faiss processed candidates for presidential appointments.

Faiss wrote Masto is “a Hispanic female, who is moderate in her political views, a resident of a region that would enhance geographic balance of the Court, in her 40s with good health, possessed of significant ‘real-life’ experience gained from holding high executive and elected office, with recognized legal talent and an ability to forge consensus, a career marked by commitment, hard work, achievement, integrity, fairness and compassion for the underprivileged, and free of any questionable activities, service as a federal prosecutor (to prove she is not ‘soft on crime’), demonstrating strong family values, and having the poise, presence, confidence and grace to appeal to the American people.”

Put like that, Masto, 45, sounds like an excellent choice. (I’ve heard her staff respects her as very professional, not overly political and a good manager.)

Masto sounded overwhelmed at Faiss’ analysis. “That’s very flattering,” she said.

Would she consider it?

“Anybody would be flattered to consider it, absolutely.” If the Obama administration called? “I’d not hang up.”

For now, she’s planning on running for a second term as attorney general. However, if Masto were chosen to replace Souter, the kings, queens, knights and pawns in Democratic politics might see some movement.

If Reid wielded his considerable influence and Masto nabbed that job, then Assemblywoman Barbara Buckley could be appointed attorney general instead of running in a Democratic primary for governor against the senator’s son, Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid.

Since it all hinges on Masto becoming a justice, it’s a little thin. But moving pieces on the political chessboard is business as usual for Reid.

Look at how successful he has been in advancing Bogden, despite his poor management skills and lack of diversity in hiring.

Perplexed Democrats don’t know why Reid is not recommending a qualified Democrat, possibly a woman or a minority. Reid seems to like Bogden because he was one of nine U.S. attorneys fired by President Bush in 2006.

Nevadans have written Obama asking him not to appoint Bogden. Preston Bluiett Jr., who worked with the U.S. District Court in Las Vegas for more than 28 years before retiring in 1995, copied me with his March 31 letter.

Bluiett, who is black, asked Obama to meet with Reid “to stress upon him that the time for change is now and that we should not revert back to the antiquated practices of clandestine discrimination against women and minorities.”

He asked Obama to “encourage Senator Reid to recommend a well qualified woman or minority for appointment as United States Attorney for the District of Nevada or to some other high federal office at a future date.”

Bluiett, who has known Reid since he was a young practicing attorney, suggested for the next two federal judgeships, Reid should recommend a minority for one and a woman for the other. Bluiett asked that attorneys who are not members of the Mormon Church “be given fair and equal consideration.”

Reid may listen to the suggestions from Faiss and Bluiett, who knew him when he was a whippersnapper.

Or not. You never know with ex-whippersnappers turned whip snappers.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/morrison.

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