Wednesday, March 16, 2016

He Knows What He's Doing. That May Not Be Good.

President Obamais  periodically credited with playing three-dimensional chess because he knows everyone's moves before they are made and acts accordingly.

And so it is, we all agree, with the President's nomination of Merrick Garland to replace Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court.  Law professor Paul Campos believes the nod puts Republican

senators in a terrible bind. If they carry through with their we-just-made-it-up-on-the-spot principle, and refuse to even give an indisputably moderate nominee such as Garland a hearing, they will look like petty obstructionists to swing voters in their home states (engaging in petty obstruction tends to be the kind of thing that makes you look like a petty obstructionist).

On the other hand, if they relent and hold hearings, the pressure to actually confirm Garland will build, since the only argument against confirming him will be, essentially, that he’s not Antonin Scalia reincarnated.

Confirming Garland before next year, however, is almost out of the question. Such an act would throw the GOP base, already in the throes of the belief that they have been“betrayed” by RINO squishes, into a rabid frenzy that would make the average Trump rally look like graduate school seminar.

So Garland almost certainly won’t get a vote, or at least not until next year. But that decision in turn has a non-trivial chance of playing a role in flipping the Senate back to the Democrats. 

."A centrist like Garland," Slate's Jim Newell similarly writes, "was someone that first-term Obama thought might earn Republicans’ respect. Now he is someone that second-term Obama knows will earn their irrational enmity."  Both Newell and Campos understand that President Obama realizes that a candidate he nominates is unlikely to get a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and that virtually no one would be approved by the GOP-dominated chamber.

Steve M. agrees, believing the President has outmaneuvered the opposition because "he didn't choose someone to put on the Court. He chose someone to be blockaded. I think it was a canny choice." He adds

This pick motivates Democratic voters who are a little closer to the center. Frankly, some of those voters are likely to be ... well, not racist exactly, but people who'd find an African-American or Indian-American nominee less relatable. Obama knows this. If these voters can be motivated to vote Democratic in November by Republican intransigence, they're most likely to respond to a blockade of someone they can identify with.

So I get what Obama's doing. Now let's see how the Republicans react. And if they say, "Well, we told you 'Hell, no,' but we changed our minds," they might pay a price with their base in November.

Well, yes, they would if they're so foolish as to change their minds.  However, it is not all about ethnicity.  Garland (Jewish, by the way) teared up Wednesday when Obama introduced him to the media- and is not someone whom most of those voters will "identify with."

A few GOP senators facing re-election (Ayotte, Collins, and Grassley) have indicated they would consider meeting with Garland.  However, Republicans probably would pay a bigger political price- with their base, Steve M. notes- if they go ahead with hearings than they would with the November electorate if they hang tough.

If that's the case, the President realized and considered it. He also is unlikely to have been surprised when GOP senators

indicated that they might be willing to take up Obama's nominee during the lame duck session in December, if they lose the presidential election. 

"I'd probably be open to resolving this in a lame duck," Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said. 

How generous. If Hillary Clinton is elected, they might kindly consider Obama's nomination instead of waiting on the selection made by Hillary Clinton, who has been investigated and reviled by the GOP for a quarter of a century and surely knows payback is a bitch.

If Republicans in mid-November do offer to take up Mr. Garland's nomination, Democrat will fall in line with the wishes of Barack Obama. The President's legacy, then, will be enhanced, as he is hailed by future historians for having gotten three of his people onto the Supreme Court.  That's a fitting goal for someone who, as Democrats didn't recognize in 2008 and in many cases still don't, finds fighting for principle uncomfortable. In a similar vein, Jack Mirkinson explains

But Obama also signaled that he chose Garland because—aside from the fact that he clearly thinks he would make a good Supreme Court justice—he sees him as a symbol of the kinds of moderate compromise politics that he has been preaching ever since he rose to prominence. He hailed Garland’s ability to forge consensus and “assemble unlikely coalitions,” and called him a “thoughtful, fair-minded judge who follows the law,” an implicit rejection of the more activist, pathbreaking judicial approach Obama has said in the past he prefers not to take. Obama used his most disappointed, whispery tone when he lamented that the Supreme Court is “supposed to be above politics” and that “courtesy” and “comity” seemed to be things of the past.

This has always been one of the sides of Obama that has infuriated his critics ever since he arrived in the White House: his insistence, against all available evidence, on continuing to see if his opponents can be reasonable. It has led him to some major disasters, but after almost eight years in office he’s still singing the same tune.

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