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Compelling Constitutional Conversations

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SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR, CATO & ME

Jan 04, 2017

- by Christopher Naughton

On our program Presidential Election & the Supreme Court: The Perfect Storm... I asked CATO’s Ilya’s Shapiro if the Senate not willing to even giving Merrick Garland a hearing— or any Obama Supreme Court nominee for that a matter— was a ‘dereliction of duty.’

Ilya said “not having hearings is a more of a clean, honorable thing to do than to have a Potemkin, Kabuki hearing.” The Senate, he said, was standing on principle because since the country is now so polarized, it was right to wait over a year to conduct a hearing and “let the American people decide” in the 2016 election. 

That’s not how former Republican Supreme Court appointee Sandra Day O’Connor saw it, see Sandra Day O'Connor: Obama should name Scalia's replacement. At the core of her Institute— which fights for civility and greater civic awareness— she believes that we have lost the ability to even listen to each other. 

 

"There was a time, believe it or not, where people would try to be civil, even though they might disagree fundamentally... and political discourse in those days was really meant to solve problems.” — Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor

(Start at :52 seconds) 

 
 

I very much respect Ilya Shapiro  editor-in-chief of the Cato Supreme Court Review and enjoy having his perspective on the program. But the fact that somehow the Senate’s refutation to even give Merrick Garland a hearing— the same Merrick Garland who conservative judiciary committee member Orrin Hatch said would be ‘a consensus pick’ before Obama had even chosen Garland—is not some sort of principled stand. It is indicative of how far we have devolved in our civility and adherence to the principles that have cohered our democracy for 200+ years. Yes, nominees are raised and rejected— though not often— by members of the opposing party. But eventually every President gets a nominee to get an up or down vote. But not this time. This is the longest the American people have waited for a Supreme Court replacement in our history. Let’s face it: it was politics, not principles. The tone of such a refute may not have been rancorous, but the lack of professional courtesy that is the hallmark of our republic, lacked basic civility. In O’Connor’s words the kind of civility that engendered “a political discourse to solve problems.”

Sadly that is missing. And another poor precedent has been set. 

Is it any wonder that now Chuck Schumer will fight any nominee that does not fill Democrats’ agenda— to some degree? Our past honored, unwritten rule was that the president gets to choose a nominee. Any nominee. To have stonewalled the soon-to-be-ex-president does not bode well for the country, the Court... and presidents yet to be. 

Related:

Barack Obama: Merrick Garland Deserves A Vote For Democracy's Sake, Wall Street Journal, July 17, 2016



Category: Constitutional Law

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