Television producer and all-around complicated media man Michael Hirschorn made an interesting tweet at around 1:20 this afternoon: "Why not Al Gore for Supreme Court justice?" And then, in a grand flourish, he let it marinate in the Twittersphere. First Hillary Clinton was mentioned as a possible Supreme, now Al Gore. What is it about former Democrats who ran to head the Executive branch and the Judiciary?
Hirschorn has, we cannot fail to note, an interesting idea. Al Gore, however, didn't actually graduate from Vanderbilt Law School. In 1974, Gore enrolled in Vanderbilt's Law School but quit in March 1976 to run for the U.S. House from Tennessee for his father's vacated seat. Still, there are no Constitutional or legislative qualifications for Supreme Court justices, although to my knowledge there never has been a non-lawyer nominated in American history. Gore technically could be nominated, and probably confirmed by the Senate, a body in which he served admirably from November 1984 until his resignation on January 2, 1993, to become the forty-fifth Vice President of the United States.
No less an august figure in American letters than Rik Hertzberg mentioned the former Vice President as a possible Supreme. "A law degree is probably a helpful credential, all other things being equal, for a trial judge or an appeals-court judge. But it is far from essential in a Justice of the Supreme Court," writes Hertzberg. He ultimately concludes:
I know: it ain’t gonna happen—less because of the non-lawyer angle (or the ethnic angle or the gender angle or the 'too liberal' angle) than because of the age angle. Gore is over sixty, and extreme youth has become as desirable in Supreme Court Justices as in Olympic gymnasts. But it would be nice if Obama would at least break out of the appeals-court ghetto, if not for this appointment then for his next one. Maybe a non-lawyer is too much to hope for, but wouldn’t it be a tonic for the Court to have at least one member who has something going for him or her beyond a law license, an ideology, and a group identity.
And last May, The Catholic America Magazine blogged:
Ultimately, the case for a Gore appointment is simple. Conservative jurists justify their rulings by appealing to abstract principles such as 'strict construction' or 'original intent of the Founders' this last despite the fact that even a modicum of historical familiarity with the Founding shows that the Founders had many and varied intentions for the Constitution they crafted. Liberal jurists care about the real world effects of a law. No one has been the object of both conservative hypocrisy (whither states rights?) and a very nasty real world application of the law in the way Al Gore was in Bush v. Gore.
I suspect President Obama will have other nominations by which he can bring other perspectives to the High Court’s proceedings. Mr. Gore might not even desire the appointment. But, in one stroke, Obama could avoid any intra-party grumblings and show to all the world that injustice can be rectified.
Oh, yes -- that Bush v. Gore. In all our excitement, we almost forgot. "When," as Gore Vidal reminds us, acidly, "the Supreme Court did a little dance in 5-4 time and replaced an elected president with the oil-and-gas Cheney-Bush junta." Clearly Al Gore might not be intrigued by the idea of getting back into the rough-and-tumble of politics, particularly in this hyper partisan Rove-influenced era. I saw Gore speak years ago at the We: Media Conference in October 2005. I wrote: "Al Gore looked tan and rested as he delivered a passionate if very Old Media keynote in the surprisingly intimate AP headquarters conference room. We are surprised he mentioned so many German philosophers (Too bad Gore didn't answer any questions: he appeared angry enough about the 'digital brownshirts' -- i.e. conservative bloggers .." Afterwards, Gore left amid a flurry of flashbulbs, on the arm of his smiling wife, Tipper. The former Vice President looked like a man that didn't have a care in the world en route to fabulous wealth, an Oscar and a Nobel. Why would Gore, in middle age, in wealth and in love with his wife, want to get back into what Mark Halperin has charmingly called "The Freakshow"?
Though he probably no longer fancies elected office, Gore might not be averse to the deliberations of the Court. His mother, Pauline LaFon Gore, one of the first women to graduate from Vanderbilt Law School. And then, as we earlier mentioned, there is that infamous brush with the Court -- aka Bush v. Gore. It would be fascinating to see the body language in the room between him and Antonin "Get Over It" Scalia and Justice Thomas.
Can you say awkward?