In 1993, when Justice Byron White retired from the bench, President Clinton was thinking of nominating Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, who was not necessarily the most popular choice, to fill the seat. Did Clinton try to ram the appointment through? He could have - he still had a pretty sizable majority in the Senate at that point.
But in fact, Clinton decided to discuss the vacancy with the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who was "not surprised" that the President reached out to him. As Hatch relates in his autobiography:
I told him [Clinton] that confirmation would not be easy. At least one Democrat would probably vote against Bruce, and there would be a great deal of resistance from the Republican side. I explained to the President that although he might prevail in the end, he should consider whether he wanted a tough, political battle over his first appointment to the Court.
Our conversation moved to other potential candidates. I asked whether he had considered Judge Stephen Breyer of the First Circuit Court of Appeals or Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. President Clinton indicated he had heard Breyer's name but had not thought about Judge Ginsberg.
I indicated I thought they would be confirmed easily. I knew them both and believed that, while liberal, they were highly honest and capable jurists and their confirmation would not embarrass the President. From my perspective, they were far better than the other likely candidates from a liberal Democrat administration.
In the end, the President did not select Secretary Babbitt. Instead, he nominated Judge Ginsburg and Judge Breyer a year later, when Harry Blackmun retired from the Court. Both were confirmed with relative ease. (Emphasis added.)
Bipartisan consultation in fact has a long history, and Bush should follow Hatch's wise example. In particular, Bush should discuss the matter with Harry Reid, who has already made several worthy suggestions. America will be much better off with a consensus candidate who garners widespread support both in the Senate and among the public.
(Via Think Progress.)