Supreme Court Justice, John Paul Stevens announced last week that he would retire from the Supreme Court at the end of the court’s current term. This is important news for both the Supreme Court and for President Obama considering that now the search begins for the President to find Stevens’ replacement. The longest serving and oldest member of the court (Stevens is 90 years old) will step down this summer as he stated in a letter to the President last week.
Named to the court in 1975 by then President Gerald Ford, Stevens has been the foundation of the court when it comes to follow the ideas of the constitution and liberal ideology for decades. Stevens hopes that his views on abortion rights, protection for homosexuals, and defending the rights of average citizens over big interests stands as his legacy – outlasting his retirement. Yet, as big as the news that Stevens is retiring happens to be, the bigger story may be the President’s search for the new justice.
President Obama stated that Stevens’ successor would be in place for the senate to vote on by the beginning of the new term for the court in October. He also went on to say that the nominee would be an “independent mind” who would have a record of excellence in dedication to law and how the law affects the American people. Some names that have been swirling around on the short list for potential nominees have been Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals, Judge Ann Claire Williams, and even current Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.
The Obama administration is taking steps to change U.S. policy regarding nuclear weapons in hopes of opening more communication with foreign countries and to bring greater security to the country. What the new policy entails is that the United States will cease development of new nuclear weapons and will not use existing nuclear weapons against states that fall under nuclear sanctions and agreements. This is a big move for the administration with regards to their stance on nuclear weapons. It is also a big move for the U.S. away from the Cold War ideology of stockpiling nuclear weapons.
This change in policy is ironic considering that it was signed days before the President goes to Russia, a nuclear rival, to sign a nuclear treaty that would decrease the amount of weapons each country would have in their arsenals. The new policy is a move that the Obama administration hopes will act as an olive branch to countries that are hesitant to be under any agreement related to nuclear weapons and proliferation. He also hopes it’s a sign to the world that the U.S. is ready to relinquish it’s image as a nuclear threat and focus more on international negotiation through an image of peace and open mindedness.
It has been decades since the Cold War has come to an end and, with it, the race to see which country could accumulate the most nuclear weapons. In today’s world, the greatest nuclear threats aren’t coming from a government or country’s stockpile of missiles but rather from a rogue group using them for terrorism purposes. Combating nuclear terrorism is a top priority for current U.S. nuclear policy and one of the many reasons the government is taking the approach with Russia that they are. By building trust with our biggest rivals, the U.S. can hope to determine enemies from allies and pinpoint the source of actual threats. In time, the Obama administration hopes that this strategy will bring security to the country while reducing the need and use of nuclear weapons altogether.