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One of the nation's most prominent journalists recently referred to the President's ability to staff the Supreme Court as "his single most important duty"—ranking, it seems, ahead of the duty to keep the peace or the duty to administer the affairs of the federal government. One can understand that judgment, whether or not one shares it, for the received wisdom of contemporary American politics is that the Supreme Court wields enormous power to affect the future course of American society. Thus, the bitter battles over who gets to serve on the Supreme Court do not, as Robert Bork would have it, constitute part of a larger culture war; rather, the struggles proceed from the widespread perception that the outcome matters, and matters a lot. In our constitutional mythos, the selection of the right Justice—or the wrong one—can change the course of American history, moving us forward, setting us back, holding the course, or charting a new one.
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