Scalia’s Own Words Challenge Republican Intransigence On SCOTUS Nominee

Axelrod recalls Justice Scalia saying, "’I have no illusions that your man will nominate someone who shares my orientation…But I hope he sends us someone smart.’"

Well. A few days ago I thought I’d speculate this week about Donald Trump’s running mate options. Despite taking a huge risk, throwing truth bombs all over last weekend’s GOP debate stage vis a vis George Bush, the Iraq War and a need to invest in our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, the 2016 Teflon Don is trending higher than ever. Writer Jonathon Vankin of Inquisitr observed, “After a Saturday debate in South Carolina that saw Donald Trump bombarded with heavy booing, polls show that the New York billionaire and reality TV personality has not only maintained his massive lead in the state, he actually expanded his dominant polling margin. And with the South Carolina Republican primary now less than a week away, a Donald Trump victory now appears inevitable.”

But if there’s one 2016 election cycle hook upon which we can hang our hats, it’s this aphorism: expect the unexpected. It feels like mere weeks ago (because it was) that I wrote He’ll Be Back: Antonin Scalia’s 2016 SCOTUS Racism Could Be Record Setting. From the vantage point of 2015, there was every reason to fear Scalia’s decisively backward influence in issuing key judgements. I argued at the time:

“There are a number of important cases to be decided by the court in 2016 in addition to Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. Issues regarding legislative gerrymandering, collective bargaining and capital punishment are among a series of bellwether determinations before the justices. Given Scalia’s continually vocal opposition to leveling the playing field according to true democratic principles, we can probably expect him to come down on the wrong moral side of each decision.”

I must confess. Through all the considerable hand-wringing I’ve done over the future of the court, the health of the diminutive, 82-year-old liberal priestess Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been the top concern. It hasn’t been 18 months since the justice underwent heart surgery. It’s hard to imagine attacks on women’s health struck down without her leadership.

But as we now know, it’s the 79-year-old Scalia who shuffled off his mortal coil last week, injecting unfettered tizzy into a normally mundane Saturday afternoon new cycle. If you watched the Republican debate in South Carolina or turned on any of the Sunday morning talk shows, it need not be said that Washington has forsaken its remaining sanity over Scalia’s unexpected passing.

Like any reasonable person who understands that our next President won’t take the oath of office for a full year, I sought to fortify myself for Obama’s third nomination battle. It seems the shock of Scalia’s death caused temporary amnesia. I forgot about unwavering, illogical Republican Party truculence. The establishment wasted no time using every voice in its chorus to insist that a new appointment must wait. Because the American people should have a say (straight-faced cynicism from the party of gerrymandering and unwanted government shutdowns), or it’s been “80 years!”(Marco Rubio) since a lame-duck POTUS appointed a justice. Please don’t ask Rubio to explain why “hasn’t” equates to “shouldn’t.” I can’t take any more lip-licking, talking point regurgitation.

In any case, if David Axelrod is to be believed, Scalia himself would recoil at the idea of a year-long SCOTUS vacancy. Appearing on CNN this week, the former Chief Strategist of President Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns reminisced about a 2009 conversation he had with Scalia over the then-pending replacement of David Souter.  Axelrod recalls Justice Scalia saying, “’I have no illusions that your man will nominate someone who shares my orientation…But I hope he sends us someone smart.’”

I never believed it possible to agree with Antonin Scalia on anything, but it’s another 2016 first. Let’s have someone smart. Soon. Floating any other option is just stupid. More evidence for the rest of the planet that our great experiment in democracy has devolved into a stagnant sideshow mocking its own structure.

If the rumors surrounding Obama’s Congressional nomination of Judge Sri Srinivasan hold true, it will be a solid, sober recommendation as a well as a fitting tribute to the irascible Antonin Scalia. Srinivasan is someone smart, so smart in fact that Republicans unanimously nominated him three years ago to serve on the D.C. Circuit for the U.S. Court of Appeals.

There’s not a single Republican who will be fine with Obama making another appointment. We get it. The objection is noted. But can we once, just bloody once put the partisanship aside in the interest of logical governance? It is no one’s fault that Scalia died near the beginning of an election year. These are simply the circumstances with which we must deal. A modicum of dignity from those who claim to champion the deceased justice’s legacy would be welcome.

Becky Sarwate is the current President of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association, founded in 1885, as well as Recording Secretary for the National Federation of Press Women. She is a national award-winning journalist, blogger, newsletter editor and theater critic. Becky lives in Chicago with her partner Bob and their menagerie of pets. Keep up with her at
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