The US constitution demands that the President should nominate the justices of the Supreme Court. The sitting president at the time of Justice Scalia’s death is President Barack Obama. He shall bet the family farm on the replacement and resist any efforts to have the nomination taken away from him by the Majority Leader Mr. Mitch McConnell.
The Senate Majority Leader has announced that no Obama nominee would be considered for Supreme Court and that the nomination would be left to the incoming president. What Mr. McConnell is saying is that ONLY a candidate that pleases him will be nominated. In staking out this extreme position he hopes that Mr. Obama would be forced to look for another Scalia by a different name. Mr. Obama should call McConnell’s bluff.
GOP is betting that Democrats will lose the presidency; that GOP will retain the Senate and the House and public support. When this happens, they would be in a position to appoint anybody they want to replace the dead justice. Mr. Obama should place the opposite bet: that a democratic president would replace him; that the senate would change hands and that the public would swing back to democrats after the obstructionism of the Republicans. It is the only bet Obama has to make. To do otherwise would be a disaster. You cannot bet against yourself.
If Obama were to nominate a moderate in order to win confirmation he would have saved the Republicans from their worst nightmares. GOP would have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and DEMs would have lost the opportunity to move the Court to the middle or even to the Left. DEMs received a special delivery form God and need not throw it away so carelessly.
What should President Obama do?
- I will have a meeting with both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and ask who their nominations would be if elected. From the names they provide and from my own searches I will put forward the most liberal candidate among them all.
- In making this choice I would consider a liberal candidate from a state that has one or two Republican senators (would prefer two senators over one). This is based on the assumption that no politician would oppose a Supreme Court nominee from his state. It is bad politics. The senate has 54 Republicans, by taking away two of their members, the vote will be 52:48. With heavy lobbying two more votes could be taken away also. As the Vice President is the President of the senate and votes to break a tie; Mr. Obama would have the 51 votes to confirm.
- If the president’s nominee fails to win the nomination, the president would quickly nominate another more liberal candidate from any state with full knowledge that he would not be confirmed but this move would give arms and ammunition to the Democratic candidate in the general election. The election would be framed on Republican obstructionism that has left the Supreme Court without a voice in the affairs of the nation. This strategy could give Dems a few seats in the senate elections this year.
- If the DEMS win the presidency, the new President would have a free ride in his/her nomination. GOP cannot go on forever rejecting candidates as the people have spoken.
- If a Republican wins the presidency he would face the situation where GOP has rejected two liberal candidates and reason would compel him to nominate a moderate, thanking his stars for being the one who made the nomination. In his first days such a Republican President would not want to stick it to the Democrats.
- Mr. Obama needs to leave office with his supporters feeling happy with his service. By appointing a McConnell’s choice of justice. It would be seen as a betrayal. Mr. Obama cannot afford it.
There are other no political reasons for Obama to stick to his guns. One is to keep the Supreme Court nominations at the hands of future presidents and prevent the Senate Majority Leader from taken over this important responsibility. Under any circumstances! Another reason is that the worst case scenario is if a new Republican President appoints a conservative, nothing would have changed, the status quo ante would prevail. Also the best way to deal with a bully is to confront the bully.
Mr. McConnell is the bully this time.
Mr. Obama is already a great president. His being the first African American president guarantees him a special place in the annals of American history. His accomplishments such as ending two wars; opening up Cuba; winning the Nobel Peace Prize; pivot to Asia; standing up to Israel; denying Iran a nuclear weapon without firing a shot; eliminating Osama Bin Laden; etc. will place him on the top tier of American presidents. If he wins this last bet he will be right there with Lincoln and Washington.
Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba