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Editorial: Obama not to blame for Supreme Court stalemate

First Published      Last Updated Mar 17 2016 10:27 pm

Sen. Orrin Hatch is right. President Obama's decision to nominate Judge Merrick Garland to the open seat on the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to touch off a "political firestorm" and to make an even bigger mess of the ongoing "toxic presidential campaign."

But, really, whose fault is that?

Not Obama's. And, mostly, not Hatch's either. Though the Utah Republican has spent precious little of what should be a considerable store of political capital to offer any real leadership on this issue.

Practically from the moment Justice Antonin Scalia's body was discovered on a Texas hunting trip last month, partisans of all stripes have been overstating the degree to which their side is right and the other party is wrong.



The Constitution of the United States does say that the president — who, for the next 10 months, happens to be the twice duly elected Barack Hussein Obama — "shall nominate" justices of the court. And it gives the Senate the right of "advice and consent" on such choices.

The document is silent, though, on many details. So it is a stretch to argue, as some Democrats have, that the Senate would be derelict in its constitutional duty by rejecting this, or any other nominee, either actively or passively.

But while the Democrats put a grinning spin on tradition, the Republicans shamelessly shred it.

The argument that presidents don't nominate, and senators don't consider, Supreme Court nominees of lame-duck presidents, before, during or after an election, has been made up out of whole cloth as an excuse to dodge taking any real responsibility for the matter.

Clearly it is Republicans who have made the nomination process into a toxic, partisan firestorm. Utah's other senator, Mike Lee, has been more on the leading edge of this passive aggressive tactic. Hatch, who is plenty old enough to know better, should be the one to take his more hotheaded colleagues aside and counsel them to show some statesmanship, wait to see who the president nominates, have a hearing and then, if they find the candidate unsuitable, vote accordingly.

But Hatch echoes nothing so much as Donald Trump's bellicose irresponsibility. The kind that has the presidential front-runner encourage violence, even riots, then seek to dodge the blame by pointing out that it is other people who are throwing the punches.

Yes, the atmosphere into which Judge Garland's nomination has been thrown is indeed toxic. He's a brave and patriotic man for agreeing to be part of it. The Republicans, Hatch especially, owe him much more respect than they are showing.

 

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