Originally, I was planning what I thought was an interesting and creative post suggesting Obama should nominate himself to the Supreme Court (I know of no law prohibiting it), resign his post as President, allow Biden to serve as #45 for a few months, and contribute a much needed practical perspective to the Court’s jurisprudence. In the end, though, I had planned to suggest we have so many qualified judges, prosecutors, law professors and others that President Obama doesn’t need to nominate himself. There are dozens if not hundreds of more qualified Obamas out there that would serve the Court well for years.
Instead of all that, I have one reaction this Sunday morning for any Republican politicians or otherwise who is claiming that Obama shouldn’t nominate Scalia’s successor – grow up. This is ridiculous. It’s the “I’m taking my ball and going home” argument, except they didn’t even bring a ball to the playground in the first place. The President fills vacancies on the Court. Done. End of sentence.
There is no “a conservative must be replaced by a conservative.” It’s an artificial, made up balance that you don’t get to enforce when something like this happens. Stop throwing a tantrum like a small child. President Obama is still president for almost an entire year, just over 11 months. He gets to find a replacement. The Senate must vet and confirm qualified candidates. If the Senate does not do its job, and plays the role of petulant child (to what end I don’t even know), the American people will lose further faith and confidence in our government. The Supreme Court is the one branch more than any other that relies on trust and faith. Lower courts, companies, individuals, state governments and many more parties to disputes take action in the real world because of something these 9 people wrote on a piece of paper. If we lose faith in the Court, and people stop following the Court’s orders, then it can get scary quick. To wit, it would require the executive branch/law enforcement to physically enforce the Court’s decisions. That’s not a place any of us want to go.
But it’s where we’ll end up, if short-sighted politicians play games with real power and influence. Of course right now it’s only the usual suspects – Cruz, McConnell, etc. – but I was disappointed to see Gov. Kasich chime in during last night’s debate. I’d like to believe he did not have much time to consider all angles and he’ll return to earth with a proper approach this week. Or maybe I am completely out of touch with the GOP and how politics is played today? It’s not impossible. I’d like to think that’s not the case and I’m simply approaching this objectively and with common sense.
When a Supreme Court justice passes away in office, the President selects and nominates a replacement. It’s that simple. Ask any high school civics class.
Now, this is not to say President Obama is not without practical constraints and a sense of duty of his own. President Obama should work with Congressional Republicans to find a replacement that everyone can support. Of course he should. I’m not writing this morning for unilateral Presidential power or for Obama to get whatever he wants. What I’m suggesting is that the political machine should gear up and get to work. For Obama to simply put off this responsibility for 11 months simply because his term is ending or because 2-3 power Elephants think a Republican will be in the White House on January 20, 2017 is not right. It’s just not. The President should select a candidate that is undeniably qualified and the Senate should do its job and put that candidate through the vetting and testing, but based in reality and fact, not political gamesmanship.
To continue the ball theme, Obama is the football coach whose team got the ball back on a controversial call in a tie game looking down the field with 80 yards to go and less than 1 minute on the clock. The Republicans are playing defense shouting at the ref about the call. They’re just hoping for the other team will kneel on the ball and go to overtime. A coin flip will decide who gets the ball in OT and somehow that’s better. (It shouldn’t escape us that it will allow them to ratchet up the fear factor in this election cycle. We should elect a GOP candidate to preserve the balance on the Court. Sheesh.)
Let’s show the American people, in this, an election year, that we still have the ability to conduct ourselves professionally and responsibly. Tomorrow is President’s Day and I realize that the Court has always been a political football of sorts. Presidents placed their friends on the Court. A President attempted to restructure the Court to do his narrow political will. The Court has to make tough choices that, in some cases, the other 2 branches couldn’t handle. I’m not suggesting the Court can never be used for political ends.
I’m saying let’s ACTUALLY play the game. It’s game time. This is what its all about. A SCOTUS justice passes away. The President nominates a qualified replacement. The Senate ensures the selection is capable of the job. And it all happens in the fishbowl of Washington politics. Fair game. Game on.