The Corner

Re: Presidential Reading

Tevi, you’re right about George Stephanopoulos’ All Too Human: A Political Education. It’s excellent, largely because, as you say, it does not “sugar-coat things.” With President Obama preparing to pick a new Supreme Court nominee, it’s worth peeling open that memoir again, to get a sense of how Clinton handled the retirement of Justice Byron White in 1993. Though White was eventually succeeded by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephanopoulos recounts how close we came to having Justice Mario Cuomo:

Clinton was ready to appoint Cuomo, assuming (as we did) that the background check didn’t reveal anything disqualifying. He was the only person Clinton had publicly cited as a possible Supreme Court nominee . . . He told Mack, Gergen, and me that he liked Ginsburg but was ready to go with Cuomo: “It’s the right thing to do.” I was so excited I could barely sit still . . . Cuomo on the Court, he added, would make a “big, powerful statement. If he doesn’t say yes, we’ll announce Ginsburg tomorrow.” There, he had said it. It was really happening. But before anyone could even begin to make a counterargument, Nancy Hernreich walked into the Oval with a note for me: Mario Cuomo was on the line. My stomach sank to my knees. This couldn’t be good news. It was 5:45, and Cuomo knew that Clinton was schedule to call at 6:00 . . . The game was over. Now I had to walk back into the Oval and own the failure. So much for being an agent of history.

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