Gore Vidal once called Merica the land of the dull and the home of the literal. The master’s opinion has been confirmed by the reaction of some earnest folks to the President’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. I beg to differ. It’s a political masterstroke that has put the GOP majority in the Senate on the spot. Charlie Pierce, as usual, gets it:
So it’s a masterpiece of trolling from a guy who’s become very, very good at that. I understand the frustration of the president’s progressive supporters at the idea of a 60-ish white guy replacing a 70-ish dead white guy on the Supreme Court. (I would’ve preferred Jane Kelly from the Eighth Circuit, who already had heads exploding.) I’m sure there were several dozen more diverse, and clearly no-more-fcks-to-give, choices he could’ve made. But Garland’s work as a supervising DOJ attorney in the Oklahoma City bombing case intrigues me, and it is likely to light up the far distant precincts of wingnuttia as well. At the very least, he’s aware of the wildness loose in the country. He seems moderate and judicious and very unlikely to stray too far out of bounds from what this president and his supporters think a Supreme Court justice should be. His opinions on the appellate rights of criminal defendants could use some work, but he’s not likely to join with the likes of Samuel Alito to take an ax to things like the Miranda decision. He’s not a law’n’order guy. Tom Goldstein of the invaluable SCOTUSBlog put together a solid compendium of Garland’s record the last time his name arose to fill a vacancy on the Court, when Garland was passed over in favor of Justice Elena Kagan.
All of which is, for the moment, anyway, moot. This is a purely tactical move, and it’s an awfully good one. Right now, Republican senators are saying that they won’t even take one-on-one meetings with the guy, let alone give him a committee vote, let alone give him a confirmation vote in the Senate. This was precisely the reaction the president was hoping for, although he didn’t exactly have to be Nostradamus to make this play.
Judge Garland’s views seem quite similar to those of Justice Breyer, which is not a bad thing at all. He’s an eminent and distinguished lawyer who was on the shortlist when Elena Kagan was nominated. In normal times, his confirmation would be a slam dunk. As you may have noticed, these are not normal times. That’s why this ostensibly safe nomination is like throwing a hand grenade into Mitch McConnell’s lap. Kaboom.
After taking one to the chin, Chinless Mitch is whining about a fellow politician playing politics with the Supremes. Remember Rawnsley’s new rule of politics: if you’re whingeing, you’re losing, and that’s what’s happening here. This nomination *is* about politics and the blue/swing state Senators who were elected in the Teabagger wave election of 2010. Come on down: Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Richard Burr of North Carolina, and the seat Little Marco vacated in Florida. The 2016 Senate map for GOPers is just as daunting as the 2014 map was for Democrats. Democratic candidates are likely to win 5 of these seats, and could even run the board if the GOP Presidential nominee is a drag on the ticket as either the Insult Comedian or Tailgunner Ted may turn out to be.
President Obama has done something that is both responsible and deliciously devious. It’s a gambit that two of the most Machiavellian Democratic Presidents, FDR and LBJ would have admired. Well played, sir. Who’da thunk that Barack Obama would turn out to be a master troll? I used to think he was strictly an “eat your vegetables” kind of guy. I was wrong.
It’s uncertain how this will play out, but Senate Republicans have stumbled into a trap of their own making. For some reason, they didn’t expect the President would dare to make an appointment. That’s par for the course, they’re so consumed with their image of the fake Obama that they haven’t noticed that he’s out of fucks to give.
Hail to the Troll In Chief.