Colson: Obama should, must nominate Scalia’s successor

with John Colson

I doubt if Antonin Scalia, the late Supreme Court justice who died of natural causes on Feb. 13 at a hunting resort in Texas, had even begun cooling in death before Republican strategists started formulating their resolute opposition to having his replacement named by President Barack Obama.

“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” trumpeted U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president,” whom McConnell fervently hopes will be a Republican.

But, wait a minute, I think the American people already have spoken about who they want in the White House, back in 2012 when they re-elected Barack Obama by a comfortable margin of more than 5 million votes. Obama took 26 states and Washington, D.C., for those who want a little more detail.

That means the voters put Obama back in the big job, which includes such duties as nominating candidates to sit on the nation’s highest judicial bench. Period.

That’s right, last time I checked the U.S. Constitution, the president was the only one empowered to put forward nominations for Supreme Court vacancies. And the Constitution says nothing, absolutely nothing, about the timing of such nominations, no matter how much Obama’s enemies would like it to be different.

Of course, McConnell is the guy who announced after Obama’s first election, in 2008, that his party would do all it could to ensure that Obama would be a one-term president, including opposition to any legislative or policy initiative the new president might undertake.

And in case you’ve been asleep ever since then, the GOP has done all it could to accomplish that goal, no matter what kind of lying, back-stabbing, politically shady crap they had to dish out to do it.

The current solidarity among Republican candidates for Obama’s job — in saying that Obama should not even try to nominate a replacement for Scalia — is just more of the same.

For McConnell to start hollering that the “American people should have a voice” in this matter is further evidence that what Republicans really don’t like is the present-day realities of life — a black man has been living in the White House for nearly eight years, the human rights of women, gays and lesbians and “minorities” are ascendant, the rapacious activities of the world’s corporate elite are threatening humanity’s very survival, and, what else? Oh, yeah, there’s a black man in the White House, did I mention that?

Republicans seem to feel that if they shout loudly enough, lie shamelessly enough and generally deny anything that does not comport with their narrow biases, the clock will suddenly turn backward and it we’ll all be living in Pleasantville, USA.

But let us return to the present and reality, if you don’t mind.

The plain fact is that part of the president’s job is to nominate candidates for vacancies on the nation’s highest court, and there’s nothing the Republican party can do about it but screech.

Which, of course, they will be doing for the next, oh, nine months or so.

The president has promised to do his job and put forth a name to fill the vacancy, as a president should.

Leading Republicans, of course, will go on FOX News to denounce the nomination, and FOX News will do all it can to broadcast those denunciations in every way it can.

One odd thing in all this, though, is the likelihood that Scalia, himself, would not be one of those calling for Obama to stand down and wait.

Scalia believed fervently in a strict interpretation of the Constitution as it was written more than two centuries ago, notwithstanding the fact that the world is a far different place now than it was back then.

But the words of the Constitution were like Gospel to him, and I think he would have been bemused and possibly angered to hear McConnell and others demand that the president forsake one of his most solemn and important functions. To leave a seat vacant, possibly right through the court’s 2016 term, would certainly in Scalia’s eyes be a forsaking of the president’s responsibility.

Make no mistake, I did not agree with Scalia’s politics or many of his decisions, but I respected his fierce and rigorous intellect and his openness to a challenging, well-reasoned judicial fight.

In reading about his death and the reactions to it, I was reminded that about seven years ago Scalia suggested the nomination of present Associate Justice Elena Kagan, an admitted liberal, to replace retiring justice David Souter.

Knowing that Obama would steer clear of anyone who could be Scalia’s ally on the court, Scalia was hoping the president at least would nominate someone he could enjoy arguing with.

Nope, I wasn’t a Scalia fan, but I salute him for his service — and I await with eager anticipation the nomination of a successor.