Mar 16, 2016

What's Obama's Game with His Nomination to the Supreme Court?

Many progressives are aghast at the president's nomination to the Supreme Court, for two main reasons. One, judge Merrick Garland is in his 60s, and two, he's a centrist. This is not the best we hoped for. Yes, he is qualified, and under an ideal environment whereas the Republican party was a centrist, and a Republican president would also nominate a centrist, Garland would be acceptable. Those days are long gone though.

President Obama may be in his moderate self, trying to reach across to the other party, as he's tried to do all these years. He should have learned by now, that moderation ain't working. On the other hand, maybe the president calculated that the obstructionist GOP senators will not budge and thus his nominee is a sacrificial lamb to highlight how extreme these senators are by not accepting even a reasonable nominee.  

However, I would not have advised the president to do this. Things can happen, like public pressure that may make the Senate give in and consider this nominee, and, who knows, he may get confirmed if the conservatives realize they may lose the control of the Senate and get a more liberal nominee under president Clinton. So, again, not a good idea to nominate Garland.

No matter what the Republicans choose to do, this supreme court's annual session will end by June with no new justice being seated. Soon after that, the conventions will take place, and there will be lots of national polls about the strength of the two presidential candidates. It's possible that, if Trump is being blown out of the water by Clinton, the Republicans might reconsider their stance and re-examine Garland's nomination.

But, I'm also betting these Republicans aren't acute enough to realize the gamble they're undertaking by not holding hearings for this nomination. And, they may be stubborn enough to be willing to lose control of the Senate too. If I were advising them, I would have called Obama's bluff when he leaked that he was considering a former Republican governor of Nevada for the Supreme Court. The conservatives should have said, yes, if he's the nominee, we're most certainly interested! They should take Garland, because they can't be sure they'll get a better one even under president Trump. (OK, I fell off my chair as soon I put "president" and "Trump" together)

What should Hillary Clinton do in this matter? Well, we all hope she'll nominate a much more liberal and younger judge--one who can stay on the high court for 30 years, like Scalia. I'd also argue that she should nominate--and already begin to indicate--a very liberal judge, because the democratic base will demand it, the public would be disgusted by the obstructionist Republicans, and it'll be natural for her to nominate an exact opposite of Scalia.

I think Hillary will be more politically savvy than this president, who wasted 1,5 years when he took office by delegating to Congress two of his top agenda items, immigration reform and health care reform. He lost his momentum. Political capital--and he had plenty when he took office--must be spend quickly or it evaporates. He should have told Congress that he's the new boss in town, having won by a landslide, that he wanted this and that and no less. Instead he squandered precious time and a Democratic majority in both chambers in Congress.

If Hillary wins there should be no wasting time and no need to compromise with a broken, dysfunctional Republican party. It is that party that needs to move to the center to be a partner of reasonable politics. The GOP as it is caters to the extremes, like the Dems did to the KKK in the 1920s. That Dem party killed the moderates, like Al Smith from New York, and eventually had to be broken up, until a new winning coalition was put together by FDR.

I may never vote for a Republican but I do want a sensible, centrist GOP; it'll be good for our country. The way our system is designed, with power dispersed among the branches, and that the executive doesn't have control of the legislature, compromise is often necessary; that's how we get things done. But compromise has to be among reasonable people who at least agree about reality. 

It's natural to disagree about priorities and values, but facts are facts, science is science, etc. Sadly, this Republican party is divorced not only from modernity but also from reality. All modern advanced liberal-social-democracies have a parties that form a consensus on reality, like science, education, environment, and many social safety net features. No, not our Republican party.

As for the third "super Tuesday" Trump not only won most states but he was fortunate to lose Ohio to Kasich. The latter will stay in the game and in the next 17 winner-take-all states, Trump only needs the plurality to win all the delegates.  

Some other random thoughts

  • Kasich is not a moderate, only appears so compared to the extremists of his party;
  • I can't decide if I want Trump to win the majority of the delegates before the convention or watch hand to hand combat later at the GOP convention if he's a little short of the majority. I think of all the candidates of both parties, some 20 of them, only Trump puts himself above his party, which means he may break the party up if he's denied the nomination.  
  • I used to believe that Cruz would be a more beatable Republican in the general election since he's so bat-crazy. I also thought that the GOP might change after suffering another crushing defeat with a true conservative as its nominee; they would own the defeat with Cruz  as the nominee, but not necessarily with Trump--who may be dismissed as not a true Republican. 
  • I now think Trump spells bigger problems for the GOP, so I'm looking forward to an entertaining campaign season. However, I wish this charade didn't take place. We shouldn't have charlatans, con artists, and gutter politics in such prominence; they belong in the lunatic fringe.