Writing in yesterday's New York Times, Charlie Savage contrasts Barack Obama's tenure as a "pragmatist" law professor with his solidly liberal Senate record for clues into Obama's forthcoming Supreme Court nominee. As Savage puts it, "Mr. Obama's voting record suggests a more ideological approach to the courts than he has portrayed." That certainly matches something former Reason Foundation Government Affairs Director Mike Flynn told Reason.tv last year. Looking back on his own experience working with Obama in the Illinois statehouse, Flynn noted, "He does surround himself with a lot of different viewpoints. He then just votes left."
Savage also makes a good point about Obama's inconsistent statements regarding judicial philosophy:
As a freshman senator, Barack Obama accused one of President George W. Bush's judicial nominees of changing her approach from case to case to ensure outcomes favorable to powerful parties, like property owners. That one-sided record, he said, showed a mission of "not blind justice, but political activism."
But in another floor speech soon afterward, Mr. Obama seemed to emphasize a different ideal than blind justice. Judges should "recognize who the weak are and who the strong are in our society," he said, because hard cases will turn on factors like "the depth and breadth of one's empathy."