Will Obama Become the Next William Howard Taft?

Did the president hint at his next career ambition of becoming a Supreme Court justice during a recent news conference?

barackobama10.jpgDuring Barack Obama’s press conference last Friday the issues surrounding the sequester took center stage.

But the president also took questions on other topics, including one from a reporter on the Proposition 8 case soon to be heard before the Supreme Court.

That reporter also asked a follow-up about why the administration does not argue marriage is a right that should be available to all Americans.

His response?

“And what we’ve said is, is that same-sex couples are a group, a class that deserves heightened scrutiny, that the Supreme Court needs to ask the state why it’s doing it. And if the state doesn’t have a good reason, it should be struck down. That’s the core principle as applied to this case. Now, the Court may decide that if it doesn’t apply in this case, it probably can’t apply in any case. There’s no good reason for it. If I were on the Court, that would probably be the view that I’d put forward.

Obama on the Court?

Was the president making a theoretical point, or did he just let something slip?

For one, Obama will exit elected office at a very young age – just 55 years old in January 2017.

Interestingly, that is just one year shy of when another former president left the White House – William Howard Taft in 1913.

Some eight years later, Taft became the 10th Chief Justice of the United States in 1921.

Of course, Taft had also served eight years earlier in his career as a judge for the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, while Obama’s legal background is that of a lecturer in constitutional law at the University of Chicago for about a decade before winning his Senate seat in 2004.

If Obama does have ambitions to one day serve on the Court, it will require not simply an opening on the Court while a Democrat serves in the White House, but also someone willing to depart from recent tradition – like Obama did with Elena Kagan – and appoint a nominee who had never previously served as a judge.

Kagan’s confirmation ended a string of 11 consecutive Justices since 1975 who had prior judicial experience on their resumé – 10 of whom had served on the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Overall, more than three dozen Supreme Court justices previously never served as judges including John Jay, John Marshall, and Louis Brandeis as well as notable recent justices such as Byron White, Lewis Powell, and William Rehnquist.

But in an era in which the Court is already viewed as too political, it is unlikely we will ever see another ex-president serve on it again.

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