12/23/2008 12:50 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Obama's White House Domestic Policy Adviser: Cass Sunstein?

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At the Politico, Ben Smith has Cass Sunstein defending Obama's 2001 remarks about a "redistributive change," the latest smear attempt on the part of the right.

"What the critics are missing is that the term 'redistribution' didn't man in the Constitutional context equalized wealth or anything like that. It meant some positive rights, most prominently the right to education, and also the right to a lawyer," Sunstein said. "What he's saying - this is the irony of it - he's basically taking the side of the conservatives then and now against the liberals."


"One other area where the civil rights area has changed... is at the state level you now have state supreme courts and state laws that in some ways have adopted the ethos of the Warren Court. A classic example would be something like public education, where after Brown v. Board, a major issue ends up being redistribution -- how do we get more money into the schools, and how do we actually create equal schools and equal educational opportunity? Well, the court in a case called San Antonio v. Rodriguez in the early '70s basically slaps those kinds of claims down, and says, 'You know what, we as a court have no power to examine issues of redistribution and wealth inequalities. With respect to schools, that's not a race issue, thats a wealth issue and something and we can't get into."


A recent article in the ABA journal said that Cass Sunstein may be on the short list for Obama's White House Domestic Policy Adviser.

According to the piece:

Obama is known to seek ad­vice on complex subjects from those he believes to be exceptionally smart, rather than those who are just politically con­nect­ed. Sunstein--who has been called a "one-man think tank"--is one of those he consults. Obama knows and trusts Sunstein, with whom he taught at the University of Chicago Law School, and would probably like to clone him for several different jobs. He's a libertarian and a judicial minimalist whom Obama might be tempted to nominate to a Supreme Court slot. Earlier this year, Obama sought Sunstein's guidance on warrantless surveillance of international telephone calls.

Sunstein has coined the "nudge" theory in a recent book co-authored with a behavioral economist. The approach involves nudging behavior in certain ways, but leaving options--e.g., automatically enrolling employees in 401(k) savings plans but letting them opt out. Sunstein is no ideologue. He's supported a number of President Bush's judicial nominees, including Michael McConnell for the 10th Circuit and John G. Roberts Jr. for chief justice.