06/26/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Sonia, Who? Way Outta Center-Left Field

President Obama has chosen one tough, intellectually dazzling, judicially seasoned woman as his Supreme Court pick.

If confirmed, the Princeton (summa cum laude) and Yale Law School standout, would bring more federal judicial experience to the Supreme Court than any justice in 100 years, and more overall judicial experience than anyone confirmed for the Court in the past 70 years. She has been a big-city prosecutor and a corporate litigator, a federal trial judge on the U.S. District Court, and an appellate judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

But President Obama's pick is something of a stroke of political genius. Can even this Republican party - bruised, befuddled, and battered over recent culture wars, including the nasty immigration-reform debates - afford a hi-profile fight over a Latina woman so eminently qualified for the seat?

Beyond politics, the pick comfortably fits the Obamaland m.o. - tossing and fielding fly balls around center-left field.

Devout liberals are Obama's "closet base." "Moderate progressives" - much like Sotomayor - are his public base. Obama's game plan often charts a distinctly left-leaning course on his big domestic works -- like sharply spiking public spending fixing Medicare and Social Security and reforming health care -- while retreating to a more bi-partisan-like comfort zone, The Consensus Center, in the realms of foreign policy, culture (read: abortion, gay marriage), and many judicial appointments.

Crucial national-security, business, civil liberties, race-related cases await Sotomayor and the next court. If an optimistic, but informed and pragmatic, social vision brings Sotomayor and the rest of the Court to stake centrist positions and to achieve centrist outcomes, great. Such vision and decision-making are laudable. But if Obama and/or the Court tack to the Consensus Center just to placate the right and to "achieve consensus," not great. There's a difference between working toward a solutions-driven, post-partisan America and merely tacking to the Consensus Center: One is leadership and the other is rote political calculation.