Joe Biden made headlines Monday when he told an audience, if elected president, he would nominate Barack Obama to the U.S. Supreme Court — if the former president would accept it.
Asked in Washington, Iowa, whether he would name to the high court the man he served as vice president from 2009-17, Biden replied without hesitation: "If he'd take it, yes."
A check of presidential historians by Newsmax found Biden's promise is not only unique but unprecedented. Never in the history of presidential campaigns has a presidential candidate actually named who he would nominate to the Supreme Court if elected.
Asked by Newsmax if he could cite a similar statement by a presidential candidate naming his choice for the Supreme Court, historian Donald Critchlow, head of the Program for Political History and Leadership at Arizona State University, replied: "No, but if you are trying to hang on the coattails of your predecessor, [Biden’s move] is not a bad political ploy."
"Not off the top of my head," replied Henry Olsen of the Center for Ethics and Public Policy when we asked if he could name a past presidential candidate making such a statement before his election.
"I can't recall anything similar in terms of a public declaration," said David Pietrusza, author of seven books on presidential election years and the critically acclaimed "TR's Last War." "It seems extraordinarily rash, with a hint of trying to curry Obama's favor during the 2020 process."
But Pietrusza did point out, in 1916, "Woodrow Wilson privately put out a feeler to Associate Justice Charles Evans Hughes that if Hughes remained on the high court, Wilson would elevate him to chief justice. This was to prevent the Republican Hughes from leaving the bench and opposing the Democrat Wilson as that year's Republican nominee. The ploy didn't work as Hughes possessed too much integrity."
(Justice Hughes resigned from the bench in '16 to accept the Republican presidential nomination and lost a tight race to Wilson that fall.)
As a candidate in 2016, Donald Trump did say he would choose his justices from a list of 21 potential high-court candidates the Heritage Foundation and Federalist Society assisted him with in compiling in May of '16 and expanded in September of that year.
The two justices named to the court by Trump — Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanagh— both came from the list. But Trump supporters are quick to point out the president never promised to appoint any one specific jurist from the list in the event of a Supreme Court vacancy.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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