The Supreme Court Nomination Battle

On the night of Antonin Scalia’s death, Mitchell McConnell, Republican Majority leader of the Senate , vowed that any nomination from President Barack Obama would be blocked and not acted upon.  He said that choosing a successor should occur after the presidential election in November, 2016 when the voice of the people would be heard.  This startling declaration was in direct conflict with the United States Constitution which states that  the President  nominates  a successor when a vacancy appears.  And the Senate has the responsibility to advise and consent on the nominee.  There has never been a time in our history when the Senate has refused categorically to fulfill their required role.

During the weeks since then,  President Obama moved ahead with his responsibility.  He carefully studied  the records of possible candidates while the political world speculated on the names of judges who might qualify for the open seat.  Would he choose another woman?  Or a minority to satisfy his liberal advocates?  Will he or she be young to have a lasting tenure? Many names floated and were hotly debated on cable news shows. The suspense ended on Wednesday morning, March 15 when President Obama made his announcement in the Rose Garden.   He introduced Merrick Garland, the Chief Judge of the D.C. Court of Appeals as his choice for the Supreme Court.   He said, “I’ve selected a nominee who is widely recognized not only as one of America’s sharpest legal minds, but someone who brings to his work a spirit of decency, modesty, integrity, even-handedness, and excellence.”

Merrick Garland, 63, a judge for l9 years has drawn praise from both Democrats and Republicans  in Washington.  The Second Circuit in D.C. is considered  the  most important  appeals court in the nation; Garland became chief three years ago.  He is viewed as a moderate and centrist in his decisions without strong political ideology.   In April, 1995, Garland was a deputy attorney general when the Oklahoma City bombing took place.   He watched toddlers’ bodies being taken out on television and said to his superior,  “You’ve got to let me go out there.”  Within days, he was on the ground and ended up , starting the case against the bombers and  supervising their prosecution.

Within minutes of the announcement,  Senator McConnell claimed that President Obama made his choice, “not with the intent of seeing the nominee confirmed, but in order to politicize it  for the purposes of the election.”  The battle was joined  when Republican candidates in the presidential race all jumped on board with McConnell’s  argument that the people in the November  election  “should have a voice” in the appointment.   They all ignored the fact that the people’s voice had come across loud and clear when they re-elected Barack Obama for a second term with overwhelming  popular  and electoral numbers.

On Thursday, March 16,  the Democrats in the Senate moved ahead with the normal process of a Supreme Court Nominee coming to the Senate to meet  one-on-one with the members of the Judiciary Committee.  He met first with Senator Patrick Leahy, the ranking member, and then with Senator Harry Reid, the Minority Leader.  Reporters , of course, followed them closely , asking  key questions as they walked through the halls.  Cable news anchors gave full coverage , especially Senator McConnell  ignoring the event and trying to move on to other “senate business.”   At the end of the day,  all senators left for a  two week recess in their home districts.   It would be certain that their refusal to consider Merrick Garland’s  nomination would be a hot topic  at home.   Certain Republican senators are in tight races for re-election in November : Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, Mark Kirk in Illinois,   Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire ,  Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, Rob Portman in Ohio.  Democratic opponents will be asking them in ads and debates if they will meet with Merrick Garland and vote on his confirmation.

As soon as Merrick Garland was nominated,  advocacy  groups lined up on both sides of the issue to support or object to Obama’s choice.  In support were:, The Center for American Progress, People for The American Way, Americans United for Change, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, and others.  In opposition were: The Heritage Foundation, Freedom Works Foundation and the Judicial Crisis Network starting a $2million dollar television, radio and digital media campaign in New Hampshire, Colorado, Ohio and and West Viriginia.  MoveOn is organizing more than 50 rallies around the United States on Monday, mostly in offices of Republican senators.   The Koch brothers are expected to join the opposition with significant dollars.

Senator Charles Grassley of  Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee,  has backed Mitch McConnell in his  rigid position.   However, he too is up for re-election to his seventh term in the Senate.   He has said already that he will meet with Merrick Garland when the two week recess ends. Grassley will hear the slogan, “Do Your Job!” many times in the weeks ahead in Iowa.   Political observers believe that pressure will build during the recess for Grassley to convene the committee and hold hearings.  He has the authority to do that as chair.  We may have to wait until April to learn what happens next in this on-going political battle to fill the vacancy on The Supreme Court of The United States.










Republican Party Run Amok!

Has Donald Trump brought the Republican Party to the point of splitting apart?   After Super Tuesday, when “The Donald” captured huge victories in seven states, the Republican establishment appeared to come out of their coma and react.  Mitt Romney,  their erstwhile candidate who lost to Barack Obama resoundingly in 2012, gave a blistering speech on Thursday, carried live on all the Cable networks.  He attacked Trump as “a fraud” and “a phony”  saying “he has neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president.”    He warned that Trump stirred “a brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss.”  Senator John McCain, their nominee who lost to Barack Obama in 2004, endorsed Mr. Romney’s words,  charging Trump with making “dangerous” statements on foreign policy.

Historians are recalling  the era of President Theodore Roosevelt, who split the Republican Party in two in 1912 to run for a second term against his successor, President William  Howard Taft.   TR had pledged to be a one term president when McKinley was assassinated and he became president.  Later, he said, “I would have cut off my right arm not to have made that pledge.”   Roosevelt created the Progressive “Bull Moose” Party and ran once more in a bitter   campaign that resulted in the victory of Woodrow Wilson on the Democratic ticket.

Returning   to the present scene:     Trump was on his jet flying to Maine for a rally when Romney launched his  blistering   attack.   When he appeared later to a cheering crowd of fervent admirers,   he derided   Romney   as a “failed candidate”, “choke artist” and “loser” to President Obama in 2012.  That evening in the Republican debate in Detroit, Trump appeared composed and feisty throughout,   deflecting   moderator questions with his usual aplomb.  He did not appear affected by the turmoil in the media about a possible “contested convention” at the end of the campaign.

What does a “contested convention” mean?  As explained by Ben Ginsburg, a Republican lawyer and expert on the party rules: At the end of the campaign, a candidate may not have won the required number of delegates to become the party’s nominee: 1,237 delegates.  On the first ballot, pledged delegates must vote for the person who won specific number of votes in their state.  However, on succeeding ballots, they may change their votes.  In today’s contest, there are three other remaining candidates: Senator Ted Cruz who did win three states on Super Tuesday,   Senator Marco Rubio, who won one state and Governor John Kasich who came close in Vermont but lost to Trump.  All three have said they are not dropping out of the race at this time.  It appears that they may form a “team” to campaign vigorously to keep Trump from reaching the required number for the nomination. Rubio must win his home state of Florida.  Kasich is counting on a win in Ohio.

Cruz has already won Texas. These three states carry heavy numbers of delegates.  If they succeed in certain other states, they may be able to thwart Trump   from reaching the number of delegates needed to clinch the nomination.  At the same time, Republican big donors and super Pacs are launching massive ad campaigns against Trump in the weeks ahead, throwing millions of dollars against him to stop future wins in the states on the calendar.   Major newspapers across the country are running   editorials warning against a Trump presidency as dangerous  for the nation and the world.  They include:  New York Times, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times and Detroit Free Press.  Cable talk shows on CNN, MSNBC and Fox are covering this as the number one story.

The day after Mitt Romney and John McCain urged American voters to reject Donald Trump,  supporters  reacted across the nation in his defense.   Lola Butler, 71, who voted for Romney in 2012 , said about his message, “I personally am disgusted by it. I think it’s disgraceful.  You’re telling me who to vote for and who not to vote for?  Please. There’s nothing and nobody who’s going to dissuade me from voting for Trump.”   Hundreds of others gave interviews on radio and television to reporters, saying “He tells it like it is.  He   has my vote.”  ,  “No one is going to tell me how to vote.!”  “He says what we are thinking.”

Conservative talk radio hosts reported their listeners were “livid”,  “mad” and “on the verge of tears” when Mitt Romney urged them to abandon Donald Trump.  Rush Limbaugh, whom many call Mr. Republican,  warned, “The Trumpists out there are going to feel like the establishment is trying to manipulate them, sucker them,  and they are just going to dig in deeper.”  Steve from California  told Rush,  “The Republican electorate is not a bunch of completely ignorant fools.  We know who Donald Trump is and we’re going to use Donald Trump to either take over the GOP or blow it up.”

Finally, European leaders and newspapers have been expressing dismay as Donald Trump wins millions of voters in contests across the United States.  In England,   Parliament held a debate after receiving a petition from thousands of their constituents urging that Trump be barred from entering  Great Britain.   When Trump cited Benito Mussolini’s boast, “It is better to live one day as a lion than one hundred years as a sheep.”  , Italian critics objected almost as vigorously as American.  Perhaps the most deadly view from overseas was published in the German magazine, Der Spiegel when they called DonaldTrump, “the   world’s most dangerous man.”  Timothy Egan,  commented on that  appraisal in his New York Times Op Ed,  “The Germans know a thing or two about that topic.”