Progressives on Thursday piled on Pete Buttigieg — the mayor of South Bend, Indiana and a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate — for praising former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in an interview with Cosmopolitan.
While explaining possible reforms "to stop the descent of the Supreme Court into becoming yet another political body," Buttigieg said that "one of them would be to have 15 members, but 5 of them can only be seated if the other 10 unanimously agree. The idea here is you get more justices who think for themselves. Justices like Justice Kennedy."
Rolling Stone senior writer Jamil Smith called Buttigieg's remarks "utterly disqualifying for me as a primary voter."
Kennedy retired from the Supreme Court last year, paving the way for President Donald Trump to nominate and the Republican-held Senate to confirm Brett Kavanaugh. Critics of Kennedy swiftly called attention to his record of judicial rulings.
"Pete Buttigieg's model Supreme Court justice is a guy who was appointed by Reagan, consistently worked to gut workers' rights and voting rights, and resigned to allow Donald Trump to appoint Kavanaugh," tweeted The Nation's national affairs correspondent Jeet Heer.
Brian Tashman, a researcher at the ACLU, pointed out that Kennedy "voted to uphold Trump's Muslim ban, voted for the Janus decision gutting labor unions, and voted to uphold voter suppression in Husted."
Responding to Tashman on Twitter Thursday, Buttigieg spokesperson Sean Savett wrote that "this tweet ignores his comments in the interview, in which he said his appointments would 'definitely be people who share my values,' and how depoliticizing SCOTUS is personal to him because his marriage exists by a single vote on the court."
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), another White House hopeful, also weighed in. Linking to Tashman's summary of Kennedy's record, Sanders tweeted, "Interesting, I'd like more justices like Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor."
This post has been updated with comment from Buttigieg spokesperson Sean Savett.