Clinton courts another disaster: Trouble brews over President's nominee for Supreme Court

THE Interior Secretary, Bruce Babbitt, appears the narrow favourite to fill the Supreme Court vacancy for which President Bill Clinton is due to announce a nominee within the next few days. But the choice is by no means certain, and in the short term at least could raise as many problems as it solves.

According to White House officials yesterday, the short list for what will be the first Court appointment by a Democratic president in a quarter of a century has been narrowed to three: Mr Babbitt, a former governor of Arizona and briefly a Democratic presidential contender in 1988, and two widely esteemed and moderate Appeals Court judges, Stephen Breyer of Boston and Gilbert Merritt, chief judge of the US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

In an ideal world, the much admired Mr Babbitt would be a supremely logical choice. His background, admittedly, is far more that of politician than jurist. But he is a pragmatist from the centre of his party, whose pro-abortion, pro-civil rights views would produce exactly the liberal shift in the Court's centre of gravity Mr Clinton is seeking. But times for this beleaguered President are anything but ideal.

As he struggles to regain his footing after a string of blunders culminating in last week's debacle over Lani Guinier, and searches for a compromise to save his all-important deficit-cutting plan in the Senate this month, the last thing Mr Clinton needs is a fight over a Supreme Court nomination. But clouds were gathering yesterday.

Among them was resurrection by the right-wing press of allegations over Las Vegas gambling debts and mob payoffs by Mr Babbitt, which he describes as 'nonsense'. Another was mutterings from Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has to approve the nomination, that Mr Babbitt might try to impose his political views rather than the law. The confirmation of either Mr Breyer or Mr Merritt, by contrast, is held to be virtually automatic.

Most serious is the price Mr Clinton would pay in the electorally vital West and in the environmental community, both of which see Mr Babbitt as their champion in the cabinet. As one leading wildlife activist put it: 'He's basically irreplaceable at Interior.' If he does move, moreover, Mr Clinton would have the time-consuming task of finding another Interior Secretary. By some accounts, the process has already started.

In the meantime, the President's scramble back to the political centre continues. Yesterday, at a 'cordial' meeting with Republican and Democrat congressional leaders, he again signalled his willingness to amend the budget package by scaling down his energy tax and making deeper spending cuts.

Conciliation is also the order of the hour in the White House press room, among Mr Clinton's prime tormentors in his four troubled months in office. The affable Mark Gearan has replaced the heartily disliked George Stephanopoulos as communications director, and in a first symbolic move ordered reporters once more be allowed free access to the press office.

But nomination difficulties continue to dog the President. It now emerges that the Mayor of Boston, Ray Flynn, may turn down the job of US envoy to the Vatican he was offered three months ago. Mr Flynn is reportedly furious that orginal promises he would be a roving human rights ambassador have been withdrawn, and that the State Department vetoed a dollars 500,000 (pounds 330,000) fundraising event by his supporters.

Mr Flynn, who has six children and earns dollars 115,000 as mayor, says he does not have the means to pay for the entertaining that goes with the Vatican post out of his own pocket.

Suggested Topics
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Sport
world cup 2014A history of the third-place play-offs
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
The Mexico chief finally lets rip as his emotions get the better of him
world cup 2014
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice