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
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
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
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little