Excerpt: A somewhat softer assessment of Obama’s choices, however, was offered by Curt Levey, head of the conservative Committee for Justice,a leading interest group opposing “liberal activist” judicial nominations:
"I cannot say I expected him to appoint a bunch of Goodwin Liu’s....I always thought he would appoint fairly moderate people because I think you accomplish as much with a lot less headache. I think a moderate liberal will, on the big issues, pretty much vote the same way as Goodwin Liu and...you don’t spend nearly as much political capital. I realize that you have to have a certain number of Goodwin Liu’s just to keep the base happy. AndI know other people have been surprised....They expected a whole bunch of Goodwin Liu’s..."
...The low prioritization of judicial selection was an initial puzzlement to many, perhaps none more so than to the “other side” as exemplified by Curt Levey, the Executive Director of the Committee for Justice:
"One of the biggest surprises is that he hasn’t made it a big priority. I know the left is unhappy with that. I think the conservatives are surprised by it.Certainly everyone I talk to is surprised by it."
...In Levey’s view, one substantive explanation for the administration’s relative lack of aggressiveness in pursuing the courts card was its wish to steer clear, as much as possible, from engaging the social issues that were of such critical import to the opposition. “The judges fight is so closely tied to social issues,” he observed. Characterizing Obama as “sheepish” on such issues, Levey saw a “deliberate strategy” to not engage on:
"… issues like abortion and gay marriage and guns....He has just picked his fights....I think you can’t fight hard on judges without getting into...a lot of these social issues. I just don’t think he has the stomach for it."
For his part, Harry Reid was facing a difficult re-election battle at home, one that would not benefit from his delivering up to the President a strong cohort of judicial nominees approaching Election Day. As Curt Levey noted, a similar difficulty may have brought down Tom Daschle, a Senate leader facing re-election and, perhaps, paying too much attention to the President’s priorities and not his own...