For all the criticism we've seen of Republicans for saying they would not even allow a Supreme Court nomination from President Obama to come to the Senate floor, the most pointed comments are not that Republicans were so egregiously political by spitting in the face of the Constitution, but rather that they were so incredibly stupid to say that that was how they would act.
It is certainly inexplicable, I have thought that from the first. As I wrote here, I fully expected Republicans to not allow any nominee to go through. But why on earth say so and create so much public outrage that you'd risk losing not just the presidency, but control of the Senate?? (There are 14 more GOP seats than Democratic up for re-election.) Why not simply just say, "We hope the President understands that this is an election year and will be thoughtful in his decision who to nominate and not be partisan, but we look forward to him sending his nomination to the Senate and will give it all the deep consideration and fairness it is due" -- and then act as mind-numbingly slowly as humanly possible...before coming up with some thoughtless, but reasonable-sounding explanation for voting the person down. And keep doing this for every nominee. Then, they would seem fair-minded, and achieve the same obstructionist end. The party could rise above partisanship and leave it to the GOP candidates to carry the load by expressing their outrage. And in the end, that's just six people -- four of whom aren't in the Senate (two aren't even politicians and a third is no longer in office), and wouldn't take a political hit, and of the two remaining candidates who are the Senate, Marco Rubio is giving up his seat by not running for re-election, and Ted Cruz is hated by everyone in the Senate anyway.
The only semi-explanation is that Republicans feel they have to sound tough to appeal to their base, especially the few senators up for re-election in deeply Red states, to guard against a primary challenge . But it's far too late for that, most especially in the South where Super Tuesday is in two weeks. And of course every GOP senator can be as vociferously outraged (!) and outspoken (!) as they want against any nominee, without being seen as obstructing the Constitution. So, the explanation doesn't hold water.
I just think what happened is that it's become the default, knee-jerk reaction of Republicans today, to try to block President Obama from doing anything. And so, without thinking, they knee-jerked.
And already we're seeing national backlash, and already we're seeing what the media is referring to as a a little bit of cracks in the wall, as some Republicans are backing off the initial obstructionsim, a few of them saying that they are now willing to sit back and see what the president plans to do.
The thing is, I think most media coverage reporting the "cracks in the wall" has been much too naive. I don't believe for a moment that these are cracks in the wall at all or second thoughts. I think these few Republicans are saying now what they realize they should have said from the first. But they still have no intention of letting a nomination pass out of the Judiciary Committee -- or if they do decide to allow maybe one nomination make it to the Senate floor, they have no intention to let it pass a vote.
By the way, if it gets to the point where a vote of the full Senate has to be taken, I wouldn't even be surprised to find that GOP leadership will allow a few Senators who are in moderate or even somewhat liberal states, like Mark Kirk in Illinois, to vote for the Obama nominee. This will not only give the Republican candidates the cover of "fairness" as a "coalition builder" who can "reach across the aisle" for the general election, but also allow the national party to look "fair," as well, by showing that the Republican Senate didn't vote as a unanimous block against a good, accomplished nominee. But not enough Republican senators will make it through that "crack" to allow the nomination to pass.
Is it possible that an Obama nominee could get approved by the Republican-controlled Senate? Yes, certainly, it's possible. We don't know the level of public pressure that will come, or how much impact public shamming and humiliation could have -- though for a party on the verge of nominating Donald Trump as its leader for president, public humiliation doesn't seem to have much weight. Nor do we know who the nominee will be. Or perhaps polls will show Republicans at risk of losing control of the Senate. Or maybe there'd be some unexpected Act of God impossible to imagine at the moment. Like perhaps the Wizard of Oz appearing and giving the Republican Caucus a heart, a brain, and courage. But, no, I don't expect an Obama nominee to get approved.
What I do expect, though, is that -- now -- Republicans have seen enough of the public reaction and will tone down their "block at all costs" any nominee and will attempt to appear open-minded as a new-born babe. Which is what they should have done from the beginning if they weren't so close-minded and hell-bent on opposing Everything Obama.
And then, while smiling and singing "Kumbaya," they will try as hard as they can to vote it down.
For the first time perhaps in U.S. history, we are going to see if full-scale, national public shaming works...
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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