He is in Senate confirmation hearings for a seat on the liberal bastion 9th Federal Circuit Court in San Francisco. The hearings (or delays of the hearings) are the current edition of the "Phony War" conducted during the early phases of World War II after the Nazi invasion of Poland.
Tactics will be tested, media weapons deployed, the enemy's weaknesses will be probed, buzz and spin words will be thrusted and be parried. All in anticipation of the real war, the one that will be waged over the vacancy created by the retirement of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.
Is Liu the proverbial coal mine canary? Maybe. Maybe not. He may be something else altogether.
One source in Senator Charles Shumer's New York office we spoke with said that Liu, in fact, might be the ultimate red herring, a liberal who is so dedicated to the cause that he is willing to fall on his sword and return to teaching if it results in a true liberal reaching the Supreme Court. Politics and poker. But you read it here first in case it's an accurate prediction.
Regardless, here are Liu's credentials without prejudice:
A graduate of Stanford, Rhodes Scholar to Oxford, and Yale Law School graduate who clerked for a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. I know if I were Liu, I'd be polishing up my badge big time.
Here come the flash points:
That Justice? Ruth Bader Ginsburg (first red cape waved in front of the right wing bull).
He is an Associate Dean as well as a professor at the UC Berkeley School of Law (second red cape waved in front of the right wing bull).
Liu is only 39 (third red cape waved in front of the old, grumpy right wing bull).
He is intensely anti-capital punishment, mildly on the side of affirmative action, pro-choice, and against unrestrained capitalism. Red capes are now flapping everywhere like laundry snapping on a clothesline in a stiff breeze. The Republican extremists are snorting and pawing the ground.
Speaking of the nomination of Chief Justice John Roberts, Mr. Liu said words Roberts often uses such as "'free enterprise,' under-regulated 'private ownership of property,' and 'limited government'" are "code words for an ideological agenda hostile to environmental, workplace, and consumer protections."
He also criticized Justice Samuel Alito in full-throated prose: "Judge Alito's record envisions an America where police may shoot and kill an unarmed boy to stop him from running away with a stolen purse; where federal agents may point guns at ordinary citizens during a raid, even after no sign of resistance . . . where a black man may be sentenced to death by an all-white jury for killing a white man . . . and where police may search what a warrant permits, and then some."
The hypocrites from the right have already speciously attacked Professor Liu, playing the "experience card" as a tool for twice postponing open, honest hearings by the Judicial Committee.
The Wall Street Journal this past Saturday wrung its greed-grimed hands and said: "Mr. Liu has never served as a lower court judge and has limited experience arguing cases before the federal courts."
It just so happens that each of the current Supreme Court Justices – with the exception of liberal Justice Sotomayor – lacked state or federal judicial experience prior to his or her appointment to a federal appellate court.
So? Where was the radical right when its favorite court Dobermans were being nominated and confirmed? (Probably the same place they were when George W. Bush was ruining the American economy.)
In strange counterpoint, Liu has gained the endorsement of the fallen Ken Starr, and Richard Painter, the "ethics adviser to the Bush Administration" (an oxymoron beyond satire, parody and laws of the known universe).
Goodwin Liu has been on the boards of directors of the ACLU of Northern California, the National Women's Law Center, the Public Welfare Foundation, and Chinese for Affirmative Action. He's also a long-time member of the American Constitution Society, which is devoted to helping to place liberal lawyers in positions of power in government and in the judiciary.
So, we know the hostility is not about Liu's competence or his experience, which is all that should matter. But the radicals - the Republican Party as a whole - have a different agenda.
Stop anything Obama wants. Demonize the left as if it were actually totalitarian. And, finally and most nefariously, take aim at whomever might be nominated to the Supreme Court vacancy.