Just because the devil has a new playmate is no reason to prevent the Supreme Court from functioning properly. Before Justice Scalia's body was even cold, Republicans started obstructionism and pledged to block any Obama appointment. Apparently, a dying conservatism cares not a fig about the constitution -- just clinging to power.
The South Carolina Republican presidential debates exemplify the squalor and extremism of current conservatism. One candidate rightly compared the debate to a demolition derby and commented that his car was still running around the circus. The sad coterie on that stage denies science and even reality. The Republican Party candidates began by praying for Scalia and his family then displaying decidedly unchristian behavior toward each other.
Devout and visibly religious, Republican candidates suddenly seem untrusting of their god, who called Scalia home. Holding decidedly religious based anti-science and anti-education views, the candidates now question the existence of god. Rather than trust their god, the candidates toss the Constitution aside for continuing obstructionism. No hearings for a President Obama appointee to the Supreme Court.
A vibrant growing party and ideology does not embrace failure and denial. The clash of ideas should be relished and embraced; much as Justice Ginsburg described in her remarks following Justice Scalia's death.
From our years together at the D.C. Circuit, we were best buddies. We disagreed now and then, but when I wrote for the Court and received a Scalia dissent, the opinion ultimately released was notably better than my initial circulation. Justice Scalia nailed all the weak spots -- the 'applesauce' and 'argle bargle' -- and gave me just what I needed to strengthen the majority opinion.
Justice Scalia voiced similar thoughts last year when Justice Ginsburg was selected by Time Magazine as one of its most influential people. Liberals would scream and conservatives would wail over various decisions. However, the Supreme Court friends labored on confident in their positions and relishing their arguments.
Today, Republicans and conservatives abhor the rough and tumble exchange of ideas that Scalia loved, preferring the dull sound bites of orthodoxy. Within hours of Scalia's death, Senator McConnell promised to block all consideration of a possible President Obama appointment to the court.
More is at risk than the continuing obstructionism and guerilla warfare that has so tarnished McConnell's legacy. Senate Republican leadership realizes that, if hearings are held, the senate majority will be exposed as both extreme and incompetent. Drawn out public hearings for an Obama court appointee jeopardize Republican control of the senate in two ways. First, they could well drive democratic voters to the polls. Second, the hearings, by their very existence, could outrage and inflame the extremist Republican base placing at risk not just the senate but also a possible presidency. Their base would be a no show at the polls.
Leading Republican candidates are on record opposing any new appointment to the Supreme Court. 'Let the people choose' really means keep this issue out of the press and the news cycle. Extremism drives Republican senators and candidates into playing double or nothing. They are willing to bet their party's future and the direction of the Supreme Court for a generation on this coming presidential election. Senator Pat Toomey said it best:
'...He and other Republicans would also consider how a nominee from the Democratic president would change the court's balance in his favor before a new president takes office,' Toomey said.
'It's very unlikely that any nominee, however well qualified, could reach the level that would be necessary to satisfy both sets of criteria,' Toomey told The Associated Press. 'And for that reason, it might be just as well not to have a hearing that would, sort of, might mislead the American people into thinking that this is just about the qualifications of the candidate, because it's bigger than that.'
The safest course for the country and for either political party, is to quickly approve a moderate, compromise candidate. Depoliticize the Supreme Court. The Court will be able to function well with two moderate judges and the issue will not drive voters to or from the polls.
Senator McConnell is a skilled political survivalist. However, because of his comments immediately following Justice Scalia's death, Mitch McConnell is in a trap and he has dragged his party and its candidates into it as well.