On April 7th President Obama returned to the University of Chicago Law School, my alma mater and where he taught for 10 years. He did not give a speech; instead he engaged in a conversation with Professor David Strauss and with current law students.  (To the right is a photograph of the President at the Law School.)
The stated purpose of this visit was for the President to stress the importance of the U.S. Supreme Court and of the U.S. Senate proceeding with its normal processes for evaluating a presidential nominee to join the Court and thus to provide a hearing and a vote on the President’s nomination of Chief Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.
The President did just that.
After pointing out the importance of the federal judiciary in general and the Supreme Court in particular in our system of government, the President stressed that Merrick Garland was an “eminently qualified jurist,” a characteristic not disputed by anyone in either major political party. Obama added that in selecting nominees to the federal courts, he wanted to find out about their personal lives as windows to their character. For Judge Garland, Obama was impressed by the nominee’s impromptu defense of a classmate’s right to free speech in speaking against the Vietnam War and Garland’s careful investigation of the Oklahoma City’s bombing tragedy and his empathy for the victims and their families.
Responding to a question from Professor Strauss, the President suggested that liberals should not be disappointed in the choice of Judge Garland because the role of the courts was only rarely to engage in broad societal change. “The courts are a terrific shield; they are not always a very effective sword,”
Obama added, “If you start getting into a situation in which the process of appointing judges is so broken, so partisan that an eminently qualified jurist cannot even get a hearing, then we are going to see the kinds of sharp partisan polarization that have come to characterize our electoral politics seeping entirely into the judicial system. And the courts will be just an extension of our legislatures and our elections and our politics. And that erodes the institutional integrity of the judicial branch. At that point, people lose confidence in the ability of the courts to fairly adjudicate cases and controversies. And our democracy can’t afford that.”
Mr. Obama warned that Republicans’ stance on this nomination could have lasting effects. If he were succeeded by a Republican, Obama said, Democrats would be unlikely to give a new nominee an easy path to confirmation, potentially leaving the seat unfilled for an extended period.
Watching the President’s informal session at the Law School, I again was impressed by his intelligence, eloquence and very personable and disarming manner. Later I lamented that this intelligence, eloquence and engaging manner were lacking in so many of the current candidates for the presidency.
I also lament that the current presidential campaigning ignores the amazing economic performance of the U.S. during the Obama Administration: 
- The U.S. economy has added jobs for 72 months straight.
- Unemployment is down to 5 percent.
- The U.S. is not in a recession and a massive recession does not loom.
- The auto industry just had its best year ever.
- The economy is growing.
- Most Americans like their jobs and get satisfaction from them.
- Wages are too slowly rising — but they are going up.
- The average gap in economic satisfaction between the upper and lower thirds in income is lower than it was during the Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton or George W. Bush years, according to the respected Index of Consumer Satisfaction.
- Nothing has dimmed Americans’ desire to innovate and make technology work for them.
- According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, employers are even more determined to provide health benefits than before the Affordable Care Act took effect. The percentage of adults under 65 with employer-based insurance held firm for the last five years after steadily declining since 1999.
- More than 16 million previously uninsured people now have health insurance.
 White House, President Obama Participates in a Conversation about the Supreme Court and Our Country’s Judicial System (April 7, 2016) (video of the conversation); Shear, Obama Revisits Law School to Give a Supreme Court Lecture, N.Y. Times (April 8, 2016); Ellperin & DeBonis, To press his Supreme Court nominee’s case, Obama returns to his academic roots, Wash. Post (April 7, 2016); Tau, Obama Says Garland Fight Putting Federal Court System’s Legitimacy at Risk, W.S.J. (April 7, 2016); Gillespie, Obama Returns to the Law School, University of Chicago Law School (April 7, 2016).