The eventful “Swine Flu” that has shaken the world recently and caused the destruction of several thousands pigs, notably in Egypt, was met with the expert diligence of individual governments and the World Health Organization. Now, known as H1N1 influenza virus, the flu seems to be in recession and, hopefully, will have no more consequences than the yearly seasonal flu.
One concurrent announcement, however, rippled through these United States and provoked both smiles and rages. The notable Republican Senator Arlen Specter has decided to return to the Democratic party of his early political days. Naturally this decision upset the Republicans, particularly the right wing that deplores one more democratic seat closer to the fatidic 60 votes that can stop filibustering.
Senator Specter recognized that his decision was politically motivated, but he stressed also that the Republican party’s currently dominated by the extreme right is promoting opinions and actions that are not compatible with his own views and principles. Whatever the reasons that motivated his previous change some 30 years ago, he was graciously welcomed again by his democratic colleagues, and by President Obama and Vice-President Biden.
Big events seem to come in chain. Last week also, Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter called to inform President Obama of his decision to retire at the early age of 70. The president interrupted an ongoing daily press-conference to make the announcement himself and to pay tribute to Mr. Souter’s legal career. He took that opportunity to say that he will seek as a replacement to Justice Souter, not a person with a legal dogmatic mind, but one who understands “the daily realities of people’s lives.” He added that he will consult with members of both parties and wants the new justice to be on the bench when the court starts its new term in October.
In his resignation letter to President Obama, Justice Souter wrote: “Dear Mr. President:
When the Supreme Court rises for the summer recess this year, I intend to retire from regular active service as a Justice, under the provisions of 28 US.C. (section) 371(b)(1), having attained the age and met the service requirements of subsection(c) of that section. I mean to continue to render substantial judicial service as an Associate Justice.
This letter is as direct and simple as the man himself. He came to the Supreme Court some 19 years ago without an agenda, but with a goal: “not to become a Washington’s creature, a captive of the privilege and power that came with a job he was entitled to hold for the rest of his life.” As brilliantly as he succeeded during his tenure, he was seen has a loner “not quite in touch with modern life”. It was observed that he never own a cellular phone and he does not have a computer in his personal office. Otherwise, he is recognized as perfectly suited to his job, just not to its trappings. One could summarize that as much as Mr. Souter’s body and astute mind were in Washington, his heart and soul were constantly in his farmhouse in New Hampshire.
So, here is a Justice to admire but impossible to copy. That certainly come into President Obama’s considerations to which are added concerns for another highly competent female or minority Justice to make the Supreme Court more representative of the constituency it is called upon to render justice for. This is indeed a great opportunity for President Obama, but also a delicate and possibly hazardous responsibility. However, as his tract record in making right choices is excellent so far, let’s be confident that he will succeed once more.