Scalia’s Death Spotlights Essential Issue of 2016
Saturday night’s Republican debate in South Carolina, surprise, surprise, played out as yet another episode of “Survivor.” Oh sure, the harshest and most bitter debate exchanges to date made for pretty good political entertainment, but for our money CBS moderator John Dickerson would have done better by sticking to solely one issue: the implications of the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the nasty and spiteful leader of the Supreme Court’s right-wing majority.
Dickerson began the spirited, if ignorant, event properly, by asking each of the still-standing GOP wannabes whether they thought President Obama should nominate a replacement for the late Mr. Scalia, or leave that decision to his successor.
Delay, Delay Delay In a demonstration of just how singularly crucial the SCOTUS appointment power is to the presidency, all half-dozen basically (and infuriatingly, but we digress) said, ‘no,’ although Donald Trump and Jeb Bush said they would act if they were in the same position as Obama, but then quickly called for the Senate to reject whoever the president sent them.
The six also took turns slobbering over Scalia, and singing his praises to the heavens for being an “originalist,” i.e. a jurist who liked to play at living in the 18th century and sending down thunderbolt decisions more appropriate for an historic era featuring the stocks and leeching than smart phones and nanoscience. Typical was Marco Rubio:
He will go down as one of the great justices in the history of this republic. You talk about someone who defended consistently the original meaning of the constitution, who understood that the constitution was not there to be interpreted based on the fads of the moment, but that they were there to– it was there to be interpreted according to its original meaning. Justice Scalia understood that better than anyone in the history of this republic…
Someone on this stage will get to choose the– the balance of the Supreme Court. And it will begin by filling this vacancy that’s there now. And we need to put people on the bench that understand that the constitution is not a living and breathing document. It is to be interpreted as originally meant.
See, right there’s your problem.
ABC: Always Believe Calbuzz. We consistently have criticized the political MSM for focusing on the urgent over the important in covering political campaigns, chronicling daily media events instead of pivotal issues of governance, while all ignoring every four years the most consequential matter of any presidential race, an argument we’ve made here, here and here.
They undercover what is important in favor of over-blowing the immediate. Hence: let’s hyperventilate about every daily national preference poll, while giving short shrift to what the surveys show about the status of the Electoral College, and excitedly inform readers and viewers that every bump in the road when actually not much is happening at all.
Campaign reporters, with the exception of the one or two who will ask dutiful questions in the debates, all but ignore the whys and wherefores of what is arguably the most significant power any president has: the appointment of Supreme Court justices, and how the differences in whom the candidate will choose as nominees shape the nation for decades into the future.
Before the late Mr. Scalia was found dead in his bed on Saturday morning, he was one of a quartet of serious geezers on the court.
Memo to Democrats now frisking and frolicking with Bernie Sanders: Any doubt about the seriousness of whether voters elect a Democrat or a Republican in November may be answered with three key facts: Stephen Breyer, age 77; Anthony Kennedy, 79, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, 82.
As we wrote about five weeks ago:
While polling shows Clinton with a big lead over Sanders nationally, it’s still way past time for the so-called progressive Democrats to wake up. What’s most at stake is not health care, foreign policy, the economy, environmental regulation and civil rights – although all of them are certainly at stake. The big issue that should be driving Democrats to rally around Clinton is the United States Supreme Court…
On abortion rights, organized labor, voting rights, environmental policy, affirmative action, civil rights, health care, political reform and so much more, a Supreme Court with perhaps three more right-wing jurists could – and likely would – utterly destroy the hopes and dreams of moderate, centrist, liberal and progressive Americans, of women, minorities, gays and lesbians, the working class, poor and dispossessed.
In other news: Bush bashed Trump, Trump bashed Bush, Ted Cruz bashed Rubio, Rubio bashed Cruz, Cruz bashed Trump, and Trump bashed Cruz. John Kasich said he was above it all. Ben Carson was there too.
The hilarious and insightful Calbuzz Twitter feed from the debate can be found here.
Hey though if Bernie wins Bloomberg jumps in. A successful mayor and self made businessman focused on actually solving problems >>> crazy demagogy or annoited insider. Agree with you guys that all the other major candidates are worse than Hillary though speaks volumes that that’s the best argument anyone’s putting forward
Republicans can’t stop praising Scalia, who claimed his legal thinking was to place an emphasis on how the Founders were thinking when they wrote the Constitution. Well, the Founders saw women as the property of their husbands, that slavery was approved by God as Washington, Jefferson and others had slaves and that all men being created equal meant white property owners were equal. Scalia was even against a woman who was going to die from a pregnancy, from having an abortion. Scalia was from the 1700s and the Republican Party today are still in the 1950s.
Hard not to agree that SCOTUS is where it’s at in this campaign. And with Scalia’s (not untimely) passing, the abstract pro forma statement about the importance of appointing justices becomes very real. (It’s been rare in the last period for the president of one party to replace a Justice appointed by a president of the other party.) Assuming as appears obvious that whoever Obama nominates will not be confirmed (and I would like to see him appoint a Latino, for cynical political advantage as much as anything else), I don’t see why Sanders wouldn’t choose well. Bank on the fact that every last one of the Repubs will choose horror shows for SCOTUS and everywhere else on the federal bench.
Mr. Mulholland has it right about Scalia’s legacy: “original intent” is both wrong-headed and impossible to accurately apply. It sounds great to the “conservative” Federalists to whom it is intended to appeal, and Scalia kept arrogantly plugging away at it until it gained some undeserved measure of credibility.
But perhaps his singular moment on the Court was his central role in handing the presidency to George Bush in 2000 by inventing a novel cynically politicized application of “equal protection” to be used one time for a Republican POTUS candidate who objected to counting all the Florida votes. The ruling not only created a theory that was solely for Bush’s benefit, it interfered with states applying their own election law, which conservatives aren’t supposed to believe in doing (except, apparently, when it means handing the reins of power to members of the party that appointed you.) He couldn’t explain his decision and so resorted to a dismissive “Get over it” when challenged.
The fix was in at the US Supreme Court and the Bush brothers got their 5-4 vote on 12/12/00. Scalia and Sandra Day O’Connor led the effort. The night of the election, O’Connor was watching the election results when Gore was projected as the winner in Florida and she gasped. Newsweek (12/25/00) reported that O’Connor walked away from the table and other guests asked her husband what’s the matter. He stated that she wants to retire and can’t if Gore is President. Mission Accomplished!