A Justice’s Death Breaks the Silence

The past few months have been a lovely hiatus. Life can be oh so nice when you turn off the television, particularly the news, and focus on immediate, touchable things while allowing few distractions. I honestly believed I would sail all the way through this primary cycle until after November 8. I avoided most of the debates. With all that blustering, my blood pressure appreciated my staying away from the fray. I thought I would jump in there when two candidates duked it out. Until then, I’d lie low and stay quiet.

Then Justice Antonin Scalia died.

And, here we go again.

For a party that proclaims to revere and strictly follow the Constitution, especially on the heels of the death of a “dead” Constitution scholar like Scalia, these latest pronouncements by Republicans of blocking any presidential nominee until after the next election are asinine if not downright juvenile. Suggesting to the president to abandon his constitutionally required duty is also outrageous. Yet, in today’s political climate, such behavior is just politics as usual.

Scalia argued that the Constitution is “not a living document.” As a “textualist,” he believed the law must be taken literally and by the interpretation of the original meaning. So I’m just not sure how re-interpreting the Constitution to suit the Republican’s election schedule can even be considered much less suggested aloud.

The law is very clear. The Constitution does not say the president may nominate Supreme Court justices. It says the president shall nominate Supreme Court justices. The law does not say nominees shall be only in a president’s first term or that Senators have a right to disqualify a nominee if he or she is a second-term nominee. Nor, does the Constitution even hint that the president’s nominee’s ideology must parallel the justice replaced. Nowhere. No how.

I would only hope President Obama chooses someone from higher courts already vetted and approved by the senate with no opposition. Then, if blocked, senators would have to explain to the American people about obstruction and not following the duties of law.

As for me, I’d prefer a moderate with no agenda, someone who would interpret the Constitution fairly and rationally. After all, Sandra Day O’Connor, Ronald Reagan’s first appointee, was considered a conservative, then a centrist, then a moderate as she became the swing vote during her tenure on the Supreme Court. She placed her responsibilities to the Court over and above politics. Others like her do exist.

See, people like me vote for a president mindful of his or her philosophies for Supreme Court nominees. For us, this very duty of the president is paramount—the primary qualification for the office. To take away this duty flies in the face of our right to choose our president. And, since we chose Barack Obama twice by over five million votes, I’d say he we gave him a pretty clear mandate.

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