When you get his ideological opposites, like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, praising him and saying they were best friends, you know there was a substantive and collegial fellow there. A jurist who could disagree with you strongly, with merit, and, at the end of the day, share a nice glass of wine, the opera or a hunting trip with you. That’s collegiality.
And someone who, as former Obama staffer David Axelrod said, sent a message though Axelrod that Obama should appoint Elena Kagin, his polar opposite, to the court when Obama had his first nomination opportunity – because he wanted a smart and challenging person on the court. Scalia had the confidence in his positions that he was right and wanted the best opposing him to make sure – and, if he was on the losing end of a case, to strengthen his opposition’s arguments and make them prove they were right.
That, unfortunately, is not what is happening in the wake of his death. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell immediately after issuing his sorrow for Scalia’s death laid down a marker – no replacement will be confirmed this year. Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz immediately took the position he takes best – no vote will be held. And if anyone knows how to stop the Senate’s business in its tracks it’s Sen. Cruz who shut down the government for no good reason a few years ago.
The GOP presidential candidates piled on at their debate Saturday night, almost to a man telling the President, don’t send a nomination up because it’s dead on arrival. They want the next election to settle it. I think that’s dumb on the law and dumber on the politics. The Constitution is clear, the President is to nominate a replacement to the Senate. If the Senate chooses to not take up that nomination, that’s on the Senate – dumb a move as that is.
Obama, unless he wants to play politics, needs to send up a confirmable name. And there appear to be plenty to choose from. Not a name that will vote as Scalia did (not that one can tell what a Supreme Court justice will do once he or she is on the court) but one who is qualified and confirmable. To tell the President before he even nominates someone his nominee is dead on arrival is plain stupid. What if, a huge IF I know, he sent up another Scalia? They wouldn’t confirm that person?
If Ted Cruz wants to further earn his reputation as someone who will stop the government for no good reason, then let him run on that. A loser position to me, and I think to most Americans. It might guarantee him the nomination in the narrow world of GOP primary politics, but he will lose the election. Rubio the Robot, too. If you want to vote against the nominee, that’s your Constitution-given right. Go for it.
Dumb a move as it would be.
If it’s short-sighted politics you want to play, you’ve just given the President the political deck. He will, as is his obligation, nominate someone and that someone will be either a minority or someone more in the middle of the political spectrum, or both. Putting the GOP in a no-win situation.. You can “delay, delay, delay” as Donald Trump advised, but that too would be dumb politics. You could vote down the nominee, which would be your right. And you can and likely will alienate at least one more group of people.
At the end of the day, to just say no just furthers the bad image of Republicans as the “we say no to everything” party. If that’s your goal, you have the perfect opportunity to further that image. But don't be that stupid.