One of my heroes in public life is Bruce Babbitt, former secretary of the interior and former governor of Arizona. I had the pleasure of working in his 1988 campaign for president and although we did not win him many votes, we surely helped give him a platform from which he did enormously positive things to protect America’s pristine natural wilderness areas and wildlife.
He comes to mind now because he nearly made it to the U.S. Supreme Court. President Clinton almost appointed him to a vacancy in 1994 that went to Stephen Breyer — and, according to some recent columns, the vacancy that Ruth Bader Ginsburg filled in 1993. I still wish someone with Babbitt’s smarts, whimsical humor, and passion for intellectual debate could be added to the court before President Obama leaves office in 2017.
Bruce Babbitt’s time may have passed, although I’d still keep him on the list. But President Clinton once told me that Babbitt’s nomination would have been a non-starter because Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, told him that the opposition, especially from Western state senators, would be too fierce.