Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Choosing a Supreme Court Justice

In a recent Miami Herald op-ed piece, Leonard Pitts, Jr. wrote that Sen. McConnell is a liar — and not a very good one, at that. His reference is to Senator Mitch McConnell's suggestion to "give [the American people] a voice" in deciding the replacement for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. He intends to not hold hearings for President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court."Let’s let the American people decide," says McConnell. That is, let's wait until after the presidential election and let the winner nominate the next justice. 

Pitts claims, "There are four lies here, each more threadbare and cynical than the last." The four lies he references are "The Biden rule," President Obama "politicizing this," "not about a person," and "voice of the people." 

1. I believe that Pitts is right when he says here is no such thing as the Biden rule. U.S. Senator Joe Biden made remarks in 1992 about not considering Supreme Court nominees made in the final year of a presidency. There is no "Biden Rule" under which the Senate must operate in this regard. On the other hand, Biden did make these remarks, and other Democrats have made similar ones. Both Republican and Democrat Senators display situation ethics in regard to matters than come before them, according to who is in power in Congress and in the White House.

2. McConnell and other Republicans say President Obama is politicizing this. President Obama and other Democrats say the Republicans are politicizing this. In fact, it's an election year -- most all of them politicizing, though some may be operating on principle (some might even be politicizing and operating on principle). 

3. Is it about a principle or a person? More probably it is about a person, principles and even power. All run in order to promote their principles, power and people -- though not always ethically so -- so we should not be surprised when they act in accord with their reasons for be elected to public office. 

4. Pitts and those on the Democratic side say the voice of the people has been spoken in the election of President Obama. That is true. He also references a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll. It claims that 63% of those polled want the Senate to hold hearings and vote. But these kinds of polls don't matter (and didn't matter to Obama and the Democrats when most people polled did not want their Affordable Health Care Act). Elections, on the other hand, do matter. But not only was the voice of the people spoken when Barack Obama was elected, but also when every Senator who has to advise and consent on the judicial nominee was elected (two elections in a row, mostly against President Obama). 

We have spoken with different voices, so it is no surprise that different voices speak on Capitol Hill. Ultimately, when they agree we will have a new Supreme Court Justice. (And isn't that kinda how the system was intended to work??)

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