Liberal columnist Thomas Friedman of the New York Times says he wishes anti-tax activist Grover Norquist dead: “Am I a bad person if I hope that when Norquist slips in that bathtub and has to call 911, no one answers?”
What makes presidential primary races different from other elections – what makes them less like conventional wars and more like counter-insurgencies – is that so much of the dynamics of the race turns not just on when candidates are beaten, but when they admit to themselves that they are beaten. Of course, the psychological process of admitting defeat can be helped along by actual defeats at the ballot box, and for many campaigns the “time to go” speech is delivered by the campaign’s donors cutting off the money.
But the psychology still matters. Most presidential candidates have little experience losing elections and even less abandoning them. Scott Walker, one of the few to drop out early, had advanced his own career by giving up on the 2006 Wisconsin Governor’s race and saving himself for a winning run in 2010. Ted Cruz bailed on the 2010 Texas Attorney General race, but only because his whole campaign was premised on Greg Abbott leaving the job to run for Lieutenant Governor (a chain reaction that never happened because Rick Perry beat back Kay Bailey Hutchison’s primary challenge). Marco Rubio has written in his autobiography American Son about how he was almost ready to drop out of his Senate race against Charlie Crist, back when he was in single digits in the polls, and had discussed the possibility with close friends, but hardened his resolve to stay in when one of his campaign aides got a call spreading a rumor that Rubio was about to drop out:
I felt certain the call had come from someone in Governor Crist’s campaign who decided to disclose the sensitive information to force my hand. They were trying to muscle me out of the race again, and I didn’t like it. I turned to Brendan, and with a firm resolve I did not actually feel, categorically denied I would be dropping out of the race, not now or ever. I crossed that bridge and burned it behind me. There was no way back and no way out but forward.
So the last thing campaigns want to do is give flagging candidates a reason to react the way Rubio did. A number of the candidates who have dropped out so far, like Bobby Jindal and Chris Christie, have gone out of their way to not call on any other candidates to follow their lead, noting how much they resented being told that themselves. It’s also why many of them take some down time before endorsing anyone else, so they don’t look as if a single opponent pushed them out or bought them off. It may be why Ben Carson decided to stay in the race after Iowa following rumors that his retreat to Florida was a prelude to quitting.
1. This is terrific:
2. If you haven’t read Justice Ginsburg’s tribute to Justice Scalia, I’d encourage it. It truly is beautiful. One of the epic friendships of American history.
3. I do remember this speech he gave 20-some years ago on the need for good moral formation at Catholic universities to the Cardinal Newman Society.
The reason for refusing to say the g-word is the same as it was when the Clinton administration fought against acknowledging the genocide in Rwanda: When you use the word, you have a legal obligation to do something about the reality.
It’s an interesting world we are living in: The U.S. government brings down the hammer on a bakery run by (in our view, misguided) American Christians who don’t want to make cakes for gay weddings, but does its best to downplay the systematic destruction of Christian communities across the Middle East. We don’t think Reinhold Niebuhr, often cited by President Obama as an inspiration for his approach to foreign policy, would approve.
The government’s resistance to using the g-word is not a sustainable position, either in light of the facts on the ground or the sentiments of Congress. The State Department would be better advised to spend its energy and resources in developing policy options for dealing with genocide in accordance with U.S. and international law than in entangling itself in a discreditable and disingenuous effort to avoid using the word because it is inconvenient.
6. George Weigel:
Martyrdom is a daily fact of life wherever the black flag of ISIS stains the Mesopotamian sky. Those Christians who can flee have done so. Yet they cannot take shelter in U.N.-run camps, where they are often targets of Muslim violence. And the U.S. State Department treats Iraqi Christians fleeing ISIS to autonomous Kurdistan as “internally displaced persons” who have no claim to resettlement. So the Iraqi Christians are stuck in ramshackle camps, stateless in fact if not in law, and increasingly desperate: for in Kurdistan they cannot legally work, drive, or open bank accounts. Which means they have, literally, no future.
Iraqi Christian leaders are pleading with western countries to accept their people along with their priests, so that these Christians can rebuild their lives and save their culture. Thus far, the West’s response has been craven and cruel: Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil has told concerned U.S. Catholics that many of his people who have filed for American visas have been disappointed by a system they think unjustly rewards Muslims who have been their oppressors, or who haven’t condemned anti-Christian persecution.
Which takes us back to the era of The Monuments Men. Then, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill both declined to prioritize Jewish refugees from Nazism, for fear of offending anti-Semitic elements in the political coalitions they led. Today, western politicians seem to fear that naming the genocide of Christians for what it is, or treating Christian refugees as refugees, will be taken as a gesture of disrespect for Islam.
This is shameful. The shadow that their decisions in the 1930s and 1940s now cast over the historical reputations of Roosevelt and Churchill should stand as a warning to western political leaders today.
7. Terry Mattingly wonders if the New York Times knows that the “Arab world” isn’t “the Muslim world.”
This should be retweeted on a daily, if not hourly, basis. https://t.co/nQHcJER7oJ— Jeff Greenfield (@greenfield64) February 15, 2016
9. Gabriel Schoenfeld argues John Kasich can stop Trump. (Go ahead and read it.)
10. Rod Dreher: “replacing Scalia in the current polarized atmosphere is going to tear our already frayed bonds even worse.”
11. A Slate parenting writer reacts to Adele finding new life in motherhood:
A major goal of feminism has been for women to be able to seek lives and identities that exist outside their traditional roles as mothers and caretakers. The degree that feminism has been successful in this has, without a doubt, been fantastic for women. Still, there remains debate about exactly we are supposed to make of our roles as mothers now that we’ve been (partially) liberated. My feeling? Just because motherhood was for so long a constraint on women doesn’t mean we can’t also find it deeply meaningful and fulfilling. How lovely it is, then, to see someone like Adele appear so utterly unconflicted about the joys of becoming a parent, to be so high on motherhood without fearing that she might lose herself in it.
14. On being homeless and elderly (included highlighting palliative care programs)
15. Three things from the pope in Mexico:
“Don’t be selfish,” Pope Francis said as someone got way too aggressive in a crowd in Mexico yesterday. It was particularly striking given how tender and loving he was with some severely disabled children.
My syndicated column this week features Bill Buckley, John Kasich, and giving up moral incoherence for Lent.
What if this year’s elections result in a Republican president — Ted Cruz, say — and a Democratic Senate? After the new Senate convenes, Obama would still have a couple of weeks left in his term, so he could nominate some extreme living-Constitutionalist, who would surely be confirmed. And when another vacancy came up and Cruz sent the Senate a nominee, they could say, “Drop dead! You wouldn’t consider Obama’s nominee, so we won’t consider yours.”
Just one point to add to Charlie’s “what has conservatism done?” argument, and the related complaint, “what did all that effort to elect a GOP Senate in the midterms do for us?”… If the GOP hadn’t won the Senate in 2014, we would be looking at near-automatic confirmation for Supreme Court Justice Eric Holder, or whichever progressive Obama deems most desirable.
Yes, a GOP Senate minority could attempt to filibuster Obama’s nomination… and Senate Democrats could exercise the nuclear option and eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations. Harry Reid already nuked the filibuster for non-Supreme Court judicial nominations in 2013.
We don’t know how this confirmation fight is going to shake out, but the worst-case scenario, replacing Antonin Scalia with a reliable progressive “living Constitution” jurist, looks pretty unlikely right now. You would have to get five Republican senators to vote for a Ginsburg or Sotomayor-type. Susan Collins of Maine, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are probably the five members of the GOP Senate caucus most likely to feel pressure to vote “yes.” But if any of them voted to confirm an Obama appointee, they would trigger a furious primary challenge.
Hillary Clinton suffered a savage bout of coughs lasting over two minutes during a speech Tuesday evening, the second such attack in less than a month on the campaign trail.
In the midst of a speech on “systemic racism” before a Harlem audience following her meeting with Al Sharpton and members of the National Urban League, Clinton was suddenly beset by a nasty coughing fit. “Too much to say,” she explained, her voice strained as she reached for a glass of water.
But the coughing continued unabated, even after she’d popped a lozenge, and the crowd twice broke into chants of “Hillary! Hillary!” as she struggled to continue. “You’re a great ‘Amen’ chorus, thank you,” she finally told her audience, more than two and half minutes after she first began coughing.
It’s not Clinton’s first debilitating coughing fit. During a speech before a Jewish group in Des Moines one week before the Iowa caucus, she was forced to halt for nearly a minute while she coughed uncontrollably.
It also happened during last October’s Benghazi Committee hearing. Clinton’s two-minute bout of coughing was so severe during questioning that both chairman Trey Gowdy and ranking member Elijah Cummings asked if she needed a break.
The problem goes back even further. During a 2012 visit to Hanoi while she was secretary of state, Clinton was beset by a minute-long coughing fit. And in 2008, she was forced to cut short a television interview on her presidential campaign due to an uncontrollable cough.
The New York Times editorial board, October 5, 1987, urging the Senate to reject the Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork:
The President’s supporters insist vehemently that, having won the 1984 election, he has every right to try to change the Court’s direction. Yes, but the Democrats won the 1986 election, regaining control of the Senate, and they have every right to resist. This is not the same Senate that confirmed William Rehnquist as Chief Justice and Antonin Scalia as an associate justice last year.
Gee, I guess that means that the Republicans who won control of the Senate in 2014 have every right to resist, right? After all, this is not the same Senate that confirmed Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan…
Geronimo died on this day in 1909 — history, quotes, and why we yell his name when we jump out of planes.
Emergency Room numbers: These are the top 250 products that people injure themselves on or with in a year.
Great Fire: the grid system for London that never happened.
The c. 1275 miraculous transplantation of a leg.
U.S. Army develops pizza that can last for three years.
ICYMI, Tuesday’s links are here, and include a set of extremely awkward glamor photos, what to do if both your pilots die on a 737, an almost vertical bridge in Japan, anatomical diagrams made from candy, and advice from 1849: start a fight with your wife using these 3 simple tricks.
He’s all for Scalia now, Trump is. Swore to appoint justices just like him. Take this vow as you would any other Trump claim. Since we’re on the topic though, here is a story from December. Scalia had made some comments during an oral argument that liberals were able to wrench out of context. Scalia had referenced the “mismatch” theory propounded by Stuart Taylor and Richard Sander. Displaying their ignorance, the usual suspects howled their outrage. They strutted their moral superiority and pronounced anathemas on the Justice.
Trump was asked about it on CNN and naturally, because his instincts and lifelong habits are liberal, and because he cannot be bothered to check facts, he joined in the condemnation of Justice Scalia. For the record.
Aiken, S.C. – Jeb Bush didn’t envision his campaign unfolding this way, but his stump speeches increasingly, and perhaps unconsciously, reflect the fact that he is responding either to the environment created by GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, to attacks on his family, or to both.
At Tuesday evening’s candidate forum at the University of South Carolina’s Aiken campus, Bush didn’t mention Trump explicitly, but explained to the crowd of approximately 1,500 “why we need to have somebody who has a steady hand.” He promised he would lead with “no grandiosity.”
If that was a shot at Trump, the subsequent portion of his remarks also seemed a tacit response to the gauntlet he has laid down. “Washington needs a disrupter,” Bush said. What proceeded was an attempt to cast himself as that. And regardless of how true to fact the portrayal is, Jeb Bush just doesn’t come across as somebody who is going to wreak havoc on the political establishment. He tried to convince the crowd otherwise. “In Florida, I turned the whole place upside down,” he said. “I challenged every aspect of spending. He went on to call for Congress to adopt a balanced budget amendment.
And, more strongly than I’ve heard him do so before, he extolled his family. He said that if he had one wish — “If a fairy godmother landed on my shoulder” — it would be that every child in America is born to parents with the wisdom and judgment of his own. As a kid, he recalled, he realized he’d have to content himself with finding satisfaction in becoming half the man his father is, and he thinks he’s accomplished that.
However unusual the political environment may be, Bush’s remarks, including the kind words he lavished on his family, went over well with this crowd, which gave him a pair of standing ovations.
Raul Labrador, Idaho representative and a leader of the House Freedom Caucus, is endorsing Ted Cruz for president, sources close to the campaign confirm.
Labrador had previously thrown his weight behind Kentucky senator Rand Paul, serving as his Western States Chairman. Candidates began vying for Labrador’s endorsement as soon as Paul left the race following a less-than-stellar showing in the Iowa caucuses.
Labrador is the latest in a string of Freedom Caucus members to back Cruz: Kansas representative Tim Huelskamp announced his support of the Texas senator earlier today, closing the curtain on the minor political drama that played out between Huelskamp and Cruz campaign manager Jeff Roe. Mark Meadows, the Freedom Caucus leader who attempted to oust John Boehner from the speakership last summer, unveiled his endorsement last month.
Watch the video below. It’s allegedly of a Russian cluster bomb strike in the heart of Aleppo, Syria. Cluster bombs are by nature indiscriminate, area-of-effect weapons, and their use is particularly problematic in built-up, urban areas where insurgents are mixed with the civilian population. Moreover, the bomblets from the cluster bomb itself can linger for months, blowing up unsuspecting civilians (including children) who pick them up, step on them, or are otherwise close by when they go off. While cluster bombs have their military uses, if the U.S. or Israel attempted a strike like the one below, the international outrage would be instantaneous. But this is Russia so, yawn:
Commenting on this video in the Jolt, my colleague Jim Geraghty asks, “Where are all the people protesting in the streets of Europe and the United States? Where are the giant paper-mâché heads?” I recognized long ago that the beating heart of the anti-war Left isn’t pacifism but deep hatred for America, Israel, and — to a lesser extent — our British and French allies. It long ago abandoned any sense of proportion and now holds the U.S. strictly liable for any and all civilian casualties — no matter how often jihadists violate the laws of war by deliberately mixing with civilians. Yet the Pentagon still tries to appease this bad-faith critique, and the Obama administration even adopts the anti-war Left’s bad-faith logic.
The sad reality is that our own weapons and targeting are so precise that we would rarely need to resort to cluster bombing — especially in urban areas. But even our precision firepower is too indiscriminate for international activists. Indeed, one gets the feeling that any use of firepower is too indiscriminate for the zealots. For the Russians, however, it’s bombs-away, and its allies reap the benefits without paying any meaningful international price.
A Kentucky state representative believed that a new law requiring women to have a medical consultation 24 hours before having an abortion smacked of sexism.
So the lawmaker, Mary Lou Marzian, proposed a bill in the male-dominated House to drive home the point.
Under the legislation by Ms. Marzian, a Democrat, men would have to navigate a series of obstacles before they could obtain erectile dysfunction drugs, like Viagra. Each man would be required to have two doctor visits, a signed-and-dated letter from his spouse providing consent and a sworn statement — delivered with his hand on a Bible — that he would use the drugs only to have sex with his spouse.
Only married men would be eligible for the drugs.
Oh, wow! That’s so cheeky! The patriarchy is reeling!
These showpieces are popular on the left, and they’re all enormously tiresome. To state the obvious, the question at issue in abortion is, Are two lives at issue, or one? That question is not at issue in the purchase of Viagra.
But I expect Ms. Marzian knows that — and just doesn’t care. Which, as it happens, is where the pro-abortion movement has been heading for some time. And it’s clarifying. Take, for example, Hillary Clinton’s coming out against the Hyde Amendment, the perennial appropriations rider that prevents taxpayer dollars from directly funding abortions. In politics, the Hyde Amendment is called a compromise. Ms. Marzian’s pro-abortion constituents can procure a procedure, but her other, anti-abortion constituents don’t have to pay for it. On a fraught question, we made room for both sides. What pro-abortion activists are increasingly unwilling to do is concede that there is a moral question at issue at all. Hence the disappearance of “safe, legal, and rare,” and the rise of “safe, legal, and whenever you please.” In the long term, I suspect that that will work to the benefit of abortion opponents; but in the short term, it means a more shrill, more vehement pro-abortion movement, set on knuckling under those who disagree with them.
Which brings us back to Marzian: A medical consultation and a 24-hour waiting period are very minor concessions to make when the procedure in question may involve killing another person. It’s a way of giving some room for moral considerations that may be neglected by rushing into an abortion. If you’re set on the procedure, the 24 hours will not make a difference; if you’re on the fence, it may. And here’s the question for Ms. Marzian and her sort: Why shouldn’t we err on the side of life?
(P.S. Since Marzian’s opposition to the new law is sexism, how about a brain-bender: Is Marzian in favor of laws prohibiting sex-selective abortion? Since baby girls are overwhelmingly the victims of that practice, wouldn’t opposition to such a law, by Marzian’s logic, be sexist?)
Those who are wondering why exactly they should be alarmed by the prospect of President Obama’s replacing Antonin Scalia with yet another advocate of the “living Constitution” should look no further than the possibility that a post-Scalia Court will overturn D.C. vs. Heller.
I do not issue that warning in my capacity as a champion of the right to keep and bear arms (although I will concede that I am that), but as somebody who believes that history matters a great deal and who does not want to see it rewritten in the name of transient expedience. It is often presumed that my support for Heller is the natural product of my having come around on the question of gun rights per se. This, I’m afraid, is incorrect. Certainly, I have changed my mind as to the wisdom of an armed populace (I used to be vehemently “anti-gun”), but that conversion has had no meaningful bearing on the effects of the Constitution, and nor should it. I also happen to be opposed the death penalty, but this has no more led me to pretend that the Eighth Amendment prohibits capital punishment than my opposition to abortion has pushed me to pretend that the commerce clause would allow a federal ban. The text is the text, whatever I might think of the outcomes it yields, and it must be treated as sacrosanct at all times. The Constitution protects the right to keep and bear arms not because I like the right to keep and bear arms, but because the evidence points overwhelmingly in that direction.
There are many constitutional questions that yield legitimate and necessary debate. But “What does the Second Amendment mean?” most emphatically does not. In fact, the answer to that question is so historically straightforward that I have come reluctantly to the conclusion that the people who argue otherwise — yes, including the four dissenters in Heller — are doing little more than playing cynical games in pursuit of a political end. There is a good reason that every prominent legal figure in the republic’s first century characterized the Second Amendment as protecting a right of the people that was not contingent upon service in the militia (among them St. George Tucker, William Rawle, and Joseph Story), and there is a good reason that James Madison either personally thanked those figures for their explanations (as with Tench Coxe) or appointed them to the judiciary (as with Story and Tucker). Those reasons? That this isn’t even close. Bluntly put, there is no credible evidence from the Founding era to suggest that the Second Amendment protects anything other than an individual right. The language of the amendment is wholly consistent with its being applied to the individual (as elsewhere in the Constitution, the right is deemed to be “of the people”); the English law that preceded it supports the very same conclusion; and the “explanatory strictures” proffered during the ratification debate do nothing less than to clinch the deal. Writing in the late nineteenth century, Thomas Cooley predicted presciently that the amendment’s prefatory clause (unusual now, but less so then) might cause subsequent generations to misunderstand what was at that time universally understood. Regrettably, in some quarters at least, his fears have been realized.
We can, of course, have a legitimate debate as to what limits may be imposed upon the amendment’s scope. Indeed, writing for the majority in Heller, Antonin Scalia did just that, conceding readily that the protection was not infinite. (This concession should not be taken to mean that the right is not robust, merely that Hugo Black-esque, strict-constructionist absolutism is misguided). What we cannot do, however, is pretend that the amendment means what it plainly does not. In order to make the case that the Heller dissenters made, one not only has to ignore the relevant history, commentary, and linguistic norms, but to contend in true “Mad Hatter” fashion that the Founders’ intent in drafting the Second Amendment was to protect the right of individuals to join an organization over which the federal government enjoys plenary power. That is preposterous.
The Second Amendment’s more honest critics (Dershowitz, Levinson, Tribe, etc.) are admirably unwilling to lower themselves to making such a contention, and will thus acknowledge its meaning even as they call for its repeal or its limitation. Alas, at least four members of the Supreme Court — namely: Ginsburg, Breyer, Stevens, and Souter — have shown no such honor, and it is reasonable to assume that if Obama gets his way they will be joined by a fifth. At that point we would be on the verge of a five-judge majority reading one part of the Bill of Rights out of existence completely.
This, suffice it to say, fills me with horror — not because I think Americans will suddenly give up their guns (the restoration of the right to keep and bear arms was won politically, not legally), but because it says terrible, terrible things about the future of the law, and casts serious doubt upon the rightful role of judges in this republic. Republicans pushing back against the next Obama appointee should understand that they are not just defending the Constitution as written; they’re defending the integrity of history too.
In the Republican race, Trump, at 38%, tops Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who holds second place with 22%. Behind those two, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio garners 14% support, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is at 10%, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson has 6% and Ohio Gov. John Kasich is at 4%.
Although there is this caveat:
The poll suggests Trump’s support may have softened after Saturday’s debate among the GOP candidates. In interviews conducted before the debate, 40% backed Trump, compared with 31% who said they supported him after the raucous matchup between the remaining candidates in the field. Two candidates who attempted to remain above the fray in the debate — Carson and Kasich — each appeared to get a bump in the post-debate interviews, though the increase for both candidates was within the margin of sampling error for the post-debate interviews.
From the Daily Caller:
In a stroke of irony, a sniper from the elite British Special Air Service (S.A.S.) took the head off an Islamic State leader who was teaching recruits how to behead prisoners.
The terrorist was probably not expecting to become his students’ example, but the sniper armed with a large-caliber rifle made him one after landing a head shot from over 3,000 feet away. The man was reportedly teaching 20 recruits when he quite literally lost his head.
“One minute he was standing there and the next his head had exploded. The commander remained standing upright for a couple of seconds before collapsing and that’s when panic set in. We later heard most of the recruits deserted. We got rid of 21 terrorists with one bullet,” said a military official who witnessed the event.
Full story here.
It was only a matter of time. Donald Trump joined Michael Savage’s Tuesday radio show to talk about Antonin Scalia, and the result was . . . exactly what you’d expect:
Savage: Donald, I need to come back to the topic we’ve all been screaming about here, which is Scalia, was he murdered. I know it’s pretty brutal to say that, and I’m not wanting to drag you into this, but this is going to be bigger and bigger and bigger. I went on the air and said we need the equivalent of a Warren Commission, we need an immediate autopsy before the body is disposed of. What do you think of that?
Trump: Well, I just heard today. . . . You know, I just landed and I’m hearing it’s a big topic, the question, and it’s a horrible topic. But they say they found a pillow on his face, which is a pretty unusual place to find a pillow. I can’t tell you — I can’t give you an answer.
Here’s the audio:
As John Kasich would say, geez-oh-man. I wrote yesterday about Trump’s conspiracy-mongering at Saturday’s debate, which at least had the virtue of being a conspiracy about large-scale government deception. This, by contrast, is just Dodi Fayed, second-shooter, Paul McCartney-died-in-1967 lunacy. Soon some blog will report that Scalia thought he was being followed, and Infowars will be doing esoteric readings of Scalia dissents, like Beatles fans with album covers.
How on earth is finding a pillow — wait for it — (1) in a bed (2) next to someone’s face “unusual”? That’d be a pretty unusual place to find a lawnmower or a raw turnip or a bald eagle. Not a crazy place to find a pillow. The owner of Cibolo Creek Ranch has even tried to clarify. According to Jake Tapper, the owner says Scalia’s pillow was “over his head, not over his face . . . against the headboard and over his head.” Of course, it’s not like that will dissuade the relevant audience.
To be fair, I expect Trump doesn’t actually buy into this (although, at this point, who knows?). But if he doesn’t, Why did he go along with it? A: Because, as my colleague Charlie Cooke noted last fall, Donald Trump can’t say No. He doesn’t want to be the party pooper (unless it’s the Republican party), so he hedges: “I can’t say, but . . .” He is completely unable to say, “No, that’s bat-guano crazy!” to even the most completely bonkers idea that’s put in front of him.
That sounds like a good quality in a president.
The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza is one of my favorite political writers. He’s smart, he’s fair, and he generally seems to have good instincts about the political prospects of both parties. However, I think he’s wrong to say that Mitch McConnell’s decision to immediately declare that the Senate won’t approve a new Supreme Court justice before the presidential election was a political mistake. Cillizza believes the immediate hard line will alienate moderate voters. Instead, Cillizza says that the GOP should have done the following:
Step 1: Say almost nothing about Obama picking someone to replace Scalia other than that the person will get a “fair hearing.”
Step 2: Convene the standard hearings on Judiciary for the nominee. Aggressively question him or her as you would any other nominee in Obama’s presidency.
Step 3: Never allow a vote on the nominee, using the 60-vote filibuster threshold as your best friend. (Fourteen Republicans would have to join the 46 Democrats and independents in the Senate to break said filibuster. That ain’t happening.)
Doing otherwise, says Cillizza, “hands Obama and Senate Democrats a political cudgel to bash the GOP.”
I think this analysis fundamentally misunderstands not only the fragility of the GOP coalition but also the nature of judicial nomination fights. If McConnell signaled a business-as-usual approach with the Supreme Court in the balance, the entire conservative wing of the party would have erupted with volcanic fury — and rightly so. I was at a Young America’s Foundation convention when the news of Scalia’s death hit, and the first emotion after the shock and sadness of Scalia’s death was preemptive fury at McConnell for a surrender they simply assumed was inevitable. In ordinary times there might be modicum of trust between GOP leadership and the grassroots, but these are not ordinary times.
Second, judicial nomination fights simply aren’t about the center. They’re about the base. The Left has understood this for a long time, and the Right is only just now catching on. If conservatives can hold the line before November, the fact that a tangible Supreme Court seat is at stake (they’re always hypothetically at stake, but now the fight is all too real) will likely drive wavering Republicans to the polls even if they’re not enthused about the eventual nominee. The stakes will be that high.
Writing in Mother Jones, Kevin Drum is one of the few left-leaning pundits who truly gets the continuing meaning of the Robert Bork debacle within the conservative movement. Here’s Drum:
What all this [the lingering fury over Bork] means is that Republican voters are likely to be more fired up by the Scalia vacancy than Democrats. And they’re going to stay fired up by Fox News and the rest of the gang. If Democrats want to match this, they’re going to have to really work at it. My guess is that the Supreme Court fight is good for a 1-2 percent increase in Republican turnout this November. It’s not clear to me if Democrats can match this.
I think Drum is right. And if you doubt that Supreme Court fights are mainly about the base, keep in mind that Justice Scalia was completely unknown to almost a third of the American electorate as recently as last July.
It would surprise me if Supreme Court appointments was even a top five concern of swing voters in November. But it will likely rank high for the core supporters who not only need to turn out to the polls, they also need to knock doors, place signs, and make calls. McConnell had to immediately tell the base that it has something to fight for — that he won’t give away one branch of the government before November. It wasn’t just the right call to draw the line in the sand, it was the only call.
As many conservatives have noted in recent days, Senator Chuck Schumer said in 2007 that Senate Democrats should do what they could to keep President George W. Bush from confirming any more conservative justices to the Supreme Court. Now he’s explaining that today’s situation is completely unlike that one (h/t Susan Ferrechio).
The first step: mischaracterizing what he said. Here’s his retrospective spin: “What I said in the speech given in 2007 is simple: Democrats, after a hearing, should entertain voting no if the nominee is out of the mainstream and tries to cover that fact up.” Here’s what he actually said:
We should reverse the presumption of confirmation. The Supreme Court is dangerously out of balance. We cannot afford to see Justice Stevens replaced by another Roberts; or Justice Ginsburg by another Alito.
Given the track record of this President and the experience of obfuscation at the hearings, with respect to the Supreme Court, at least: I will recommend to my colleagues that we should not confirm a Supreme Court nominee EXCEPT in extraordinary circumstances (emphasis in original).
He wasn’t saying that senators should “entertain voting no.” He was saying that they should almost certainly vote no.
The second step: making a big deal out of the distinction between rejecting a nominee and refusing to hold hearings on him.
There was no hint anywhere in the speech that there shouldn’t be hearings or a vote. . . .
Every single senator has a right to vote no on any given nominee. . . . I’ve opposed some nominees who are out of the mainstream, my friends on the other side of the aisle have opposed some nominees they believe are out of the mainstream, and this pattern may well continue. But the wisdom of the Founding Fathers dictates that we should go through a full vetting and confirmation process so that we and the nation can determine whether these candidates are out of the mainstream even in this ideological era.
So it would be perfectly fine for 51 senators to announce that they were highly unlikely to vote for anyone the president was likely to nominate–so long as they went through the motions of holding hearings and, maybe, a vote. (Schumer attempted to filibuster Samuel Alito’s nomination to the Supreme Court, which is to say he attempted to block an up-or-down vote; and in his 2007 speech, he expressed regret that he had not done more to stop Alito’s confirmation.) But it’s imperative that the Senate go through the motions of holding hearings: It’s the “wisdom of the Founding Fathers,” don’t you know?
Schumer is a very talented politician; not many people could keep a straight face saying these things.