Early this morning before half the world was awake, Joe Scarborough lamented the lack of civility in our politics, and how rapidly Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's sudden death had devolved into partisan bickering over who should appoint his successor and who that successor should be.
There was no mention in his sad lament about how rapidly Republicans had stepped up and one by one, declared their intention to obstruct any nominee President Obama names, because it's an "election year."
Like lemmings to the sea, media hopped right off the cliff. This morning I've been inundated with talking points about other nominations in other election years were successful, and how of course, President Obama has the "right" to nominate a replacement. Each of those is always qualified with a disclaimer reminding readers and viewers that the right wing has never been quite this crazy, nor the country so polarized as it is right now. As if we should expect the Constitution to be turned on its head because there are two year-olds having tantrums over in the next room.
In other words, viewers and readers beware, because a certain irrational contingent in our country at this time has decided we should bend to the right wing in this country and defy the original intent and language of the Constitution, which says that the President shall appoint justices. Not may. SHALL.
Nowhere in that document is there any language suggesting that there's a limitation on when the President shall make such appointments, nor should the press give any weight to those who say there is.
On the other side, we just have the echo chamber of right-wing TV and media along with the remaining 2016ers, blasting out a string of meaningless words over and over, suggesting they simply will not tolerate this President doing his duty under the Constitution. Unspoken: Because then they would be expected to do theirs.
Perish the thought.
For instance, Politico reported the president "was facing the choice between setting off a nasty brawl with Congress by seizing the best chance in a generation to flip the ideological balance of the Supreme Court, or simply punting." The Politico headline claimed Obama had chosen to "fight" Republicans.↓ Story continues below ↓
But Obama faces no real "choice," and he isn't the one who decided to pick a "fight." As president of the United States he's obligated to fill Supreme Court vacancies.
The New York Times stressed Scalia's death had sparked "an immediate partisan battle," suggesting the warfare ran both ways. But how, by doing what he's supposed to do as president, is Obama sparking a "partisan battle"?
If Obama eventually decided to nominate an extremely liberal justice to replace the extremely conservative Scalia, then yes, that could accurately be described as sparking a "partisan battle." But what could be "partisan" about the president simply doing what the Constitution instructs him to do?
Meanwhile, the Associated Press framed the unfolding story as Obama's announcement being "a direct rebuttal to Senate Republicans," without noting the Republican demand that the a Supreme Court Justice's seat sit empty for at least a year is without recent precedent.
And BuzzFeed suggested Scalia's vacancy is different because the justice was, "as one Republican put it, 'a rock solid conservative seat,' and given the divisions on the court conservatives will be adamant that one of their own replace him."
But that's not how Supreme Court nominations work. Obviously, while the Senate has the responsibility to advise and consent on nominees, the party out of power doesn't get to make the selection. So why the media suggestion that Republicans deserve a say in this case, or else?
It's either Stockholm Syndrome or a world gone mad. This is the only story that should be printed or broadcast: President Obama is duty-bound under the Constitution to appoint a successor, and he will do that. The Senate is duty-bound under the Constitution to advise and consent.
Advise and consent is not obstruction. Advise and consent means having a hearing and taking a vote on Obama's choice to succeed Justice Scalia.
That is the only narrative that should be in play here. Period. Media needs to stop enabling the tantrums and start telling the country the truth. President Obama can and shall appoint a successor to Justice Scalia, because it is his duty to do so.
When we elected him in 2012, the US Supreme Court was very much on everyone's mind. Nothing has changed -- it's still very much an issue in this cycle. But we also did not elect him for a 3-year term, and so Republicans just need to get over it and move on.