Thursday, March 17, 2016

Well Played, Mr. President

Charlie Pierce on the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court and the Republicans reaction to it:

They’re in a tough spot. Merrick Garland is an almost universally respected jurist who no less than Orrin Hatch has praised fulsomely on a number of different occasions. In fact, it can be argued that the president flipped the script on Hatch. Oh, Merrick Garland is somebody for whom you could vote? Cool beans, O.H. I happen to have Merrick Garland right here.

Mr. Obama demanded a fair hearing for Judge Garland and said that refusing to even consider his nomination would provoke “an endless cycle of more tit for tat” that would undermine the democratic process for years to come. “I simply ask Republicans in the Senate to give him a fair hearing, and then an up or down vote,” Mr. Obama said. “If you don’t, then it will not only be an abdication of the Senate’s constitutional duty, it will indicate a process for nominating and confirming judges that is beyond repair.”

So it’s a masterpiece of trolling from a guy who’s become very, very good at that. I understand the frustration of the president’s progressive supporters at the idea of a 60-ish white guy replacing a 70-ish dead white guy on the Supreme Court. (I would’ve preferred Jane Kelly from the Eighth Circuit, who already had heads exploding.) I’m sure there were several dozen more diverse, and clearly no-more-fcks-to-give, choices he could’ve made. But Garland’s work as a supervising DOJ attorney in the Oklahoma City bombing case intrigues me, and it is likely to light up the far distant precincts of wingnuttia as well. At the very least, he’s aware of the wildness loose in the country. He seems moderate and judicious and very unlikely to stray too far out of bounds from what this president and his supporters think a Supreme Court justice should be. His opinions on the appellate rights of criminal defendants could use some work, but he’s not likely to join with the likes of Samuel Alito to take an ax to things like the Miranda decision. He’s not a law’n’order guy. Tom Goldstein of the invaluable SCOTUSBlog put together a solid compendium of Garland’s record the last time his name arose to fill a vacancy on the Court, when Garland was passed over in favor of Justice Elena Kagan.

All of which is, for the moment, anyway, moot. This is a purely tactical move, and it’s an awfully good one. Right now, Republican senators are saying that they won’t even take one-on-one meetings with the guy, let alone give him a committee vote, let alone give him a confirmation vote in the Senate. This was precisely the reaction the president was hoping for, although he didn’t exactly have to be Nostradamus to make this play. But I want to know more about this comic book collection.

“[SCOTUS nominee Merrick Garland] put himself through Harvard Law School by working as a tutor, by stocking shoes in a shoe store, and in what is always a painful moment for any young man, by selling his comic book collection,” Obama said. “It’s tough. [I’ve] been there.”

Hey, at least Garland cashed in. My mother threw all of mine out when I went away to college. I coulda been somebody. I coulda had class. I coulda had a cool robe and a lifetime job.

I am sure that Judge Garland knew from the moment he picked up the phone from the White House that he was being nominated as part of a Jedi mind trick on behalf of the president.  Now that Mitch McConnell has backed himself into the corner and tucked his head under his carapace, getting confirmed by this Senate is problematic at best.

The GOP is already dragging Robert Bork out of this crypt to say “Hey, you Democrats did the same thing to him!”  No, actually Judge Bork got a hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee where he was able to elaborate on his 18th century views of women and minority rights.  The committee voted 9-5 against him, but they let the nomination go to the full Senate where he was rejected.  But he got a vote.  If the Republicans want to bork Judge Garland, they have to let him at least get to a hearing.

Judge Garland doesn’t appear to be the icon of a campaign on the part of the DNC, the DNSCC, or any of the other lobbying groups that are already inundating my in-box with appeals to sign the petitions to get the Senate Republicans to confirm him (oh, and toss some coin in the hat while you’re at it), but if they and the Senate Democrats follow the lead of the president and act as if there’s a snowball’s chance that they can slip in through the cracks that are already appearing in the Republicans’ wall of No.  There are at least five senators who are up for re-election in the fall who are already on shaky ground at home and who could be vulnerable to an ad campaign featuring an ominous chorus of “O Fortuna” and the image of a slamming door.  Let’s see how long this laugh-line about “let the voters decide” lasts when it looks like the voters could vote those senators into their next gig as a lobbyist or talking head on Fox.

One bark on “Well Played, Mr. President

  1. Great music, I first remember hearing this in the John Boorman film; Excalibur in 1981.
    O Fortuna will get your blood going.

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