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It is nearly impossible to avoid politics during the appointments of high profile positions; therefore, the idea that Supreme Court is above politics when referring to its appointments is giving to much credit to that entity. The appointments of the Supreme Court, as with any political body, correlate no only to the media's portraying, but also to interest group the President wishes to appease.


A very recent example of the politics involved in Supreme Court appointments was the 2001 election. It was assumed that the next president would probably be making three new appointment to the Supreme Court. Because of this fact, the president could use this politial power to his advantage: that is to sway interest groups that had not previously supported him. For example, since Bush's female support was not that high because of his stance on abortion, it would help him a great deal to nominate a female to the Supreme Court. A female to the Supreme Court adds many points to Bush's plate because it appeases the female audience as well as the Pro-Choice activists. His second appointment would probably be more conservative to appease his Republican interest groups.


Continuing on this idea of appeasing interest groups, their are a few major bodies that have political weight in the appointments of the Supreme Court. It seems obvious that an appointment that is made will not be made to hurt reputation only to enhance. Therefore, the president would desire to appease the most interest groups possible with each appointment. In consideration when making appointments would obviously be the candidates gender, race (to appease members of less represented minorities), religious affiliation (their stance on abortion et. al), possibility of judicial activism or restraint, and partisan affiliation (get the backing of your own interest groups or to gain support from the opposing).


Now these interest groups also try to win over the president in the nomination of Supreme Court justices. They would often be found lobbying lobbying the judicial committee and the President. These interest groups would lobby to get whichever justice they feel is most sensitive to their needs elected. Depending upon how important that interest group is to the president determines how much pressure they apply on his decision.


Lastly the media also has a large role in the appointments. They media can often be viewed as a popularity guide. Since it is a very powerful entity, the president does not wish to accumulate bad press and therefore could be found be very choosing the appointment that would be in his best favor. Newspapers (the NY Times) and TV stations (CNN) as well as radio broadcaster (such as Imus) have huge audiences. If they feel that a president made a bad selection they let people know about and what say can have a large impact on how the president is viewed. The president would want to avoid this at all cost because bad press is the worst form of press.


Since it is obvious that the election of justices to the Supreme Court is as political in roots as any other election it is safe to say that it is now above politics. It suffers from the same fate as another other appointment because all decisions fall under public scrutiny and it is the public who will reelect the president. The interest groups, the media, and the politcal background and characteristics of the appointment all play major roles in the selection of a justice and is a highly political event.

Sources:


http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/sunstein/
http://www.statenews.org/news/2000/august/opr-081000-01.html (is realaudio file also)