Any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde;
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

— John Donne
Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions (1624)

Ding-dong, the witch is dead. — The Wizard of Oz (1939)

This week’s featured post is “Back to Ferguson“, which I’ll explain below.

In the aftermath of the New Hampshire primary, I’m taking a week off from presidential politics. Next week we’ll have the Democratic caucuses in Nevada and the Republican primary in South Carolina to talk about. Both happen Saturday.

This week everybody was talking about Justice Scalia’s death

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s final act, as far as I was concerned, was to posthumously remind me that I am not as good a person as I like to think.

Good People, as I picture them, see death as the great leveler, the ultimate reminder of our common humanity. Like John Donne, they believe the bell tolls for them. Every death — even necessary ones like casualties in a just war or criminals killed in the act of trying to kill somebody else — is tragic: How sad it is that a situation might make a person’s death the lesser evil.

Under no circumstances would news of someone’s death cause a Good Person’s heart to take an involuntary leap of joy. Or inspire a Good Person to say, “I wonder if Justice Thomas will follow his lead this time too?”

Bad. Bad, bad, bad.

But at least my badness puts me in some good company. As Clarence Darrow wrote, “I have never killed anyone, but I have read some obituary notices with great satisfaction.”

Scalia’s career. You can read more complete obituaries of Scalia elsewhere. Here’s how I remember him: When President Reagan appointed him in 1986, he was alone on the Court’s far right wing. Outnumbered, he became famous for his thought-provoking dissenting opinions, which were principled, but based on principles different from the ones that motivated the rest of the Court. Liberals developed a kind of grudging admiration for him; you knew in your heart he had to be wrong, but it was often very hard to explain why. Anticipating his criticisms made us sharper — like iron sharpens iron, as the Bible says.

But late in his career, as part of a conservative majority, he became the Court’s most openly partisan judge. His opinions became elaborate rationalizations of why his side should win, regardless of principle. And so, he had a sweeping view of the Constitution’s commerce clause when that was necessary to keep marijuana illegal, but an unprecedently narrow view of the same text when he needed a reason to strike down ObamaCare. He waxed eloquent about legislator’s original intent when that was convenient, but violated it outrageously by finding corporate rights in places the authors of the Constitution clearly never intended. He was part of the nakedly political 5-4 majority that made George W. Bush president, a decision so unabashedly partisan that it explicitly warned future Courts not to use it as a precedent. He attended secretive meetings of the Koch Brothers’ donor network, as (enabled by Scalia’s vote in the 5-4 Citizens United decision) it raised vast sums of money to elect Republicans.

Beyond his unprincipled partisanship, Scalia will be remembered for undermining the traditional decorum of the Court. As he aged, he seemed less and less able to imagine that an intelligent, well-intentioned colleague might disagree with him, and showed less and less restraint in flinging oddly Victorian insults (like “argle-bargle” and “jiggery-pokery”) at their arguments.

Replacement? Mitch McConnell wasted no time in warning President Obama not to bother appointing a replacement.

The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.

Elizabeth Warren fired back:

Senator McConnell is right that the American people should have a voice in the selection of the next Supreme Court justice. In fact, they did — when President Obama won the 2012 election by five million votes.

She goes on to remind McConnell of the constitutional duties of the President and the Senate. I think that’s the right line here: Let’s follow the Constitution, which is pretty clear:

[The President] shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States.

So it’s simple: Obama should do his job by appointing someone and the Senate should do its job by voting on that nomination.

As much as the Republicans may hope for a Republican president whose appointments will cement the Court’s conservative majority for decades to come, I think that position is suicidal when it comes to holding the Senate. Take the NH seat: Senator Kelly Ayotte has been running not as a down-the-line Republican, but as an exemplar of New Hampshire’s traditionally independent common sense. (Along with another endangered Republican incumbent, Mark Kirk of Illinois, she is a founding member of a small group of Republican senators who recognize global warming.) If Mitch McConnell were running here, he would lose. Turning the race into a simple red/blue contest for control of the Senate, and hence the Court, helps Ayotte’s challenger, Gov. Maggie Hassan.

It also probably helps the eventual Democratic presidential nominee to have a court appointment riding on the outcome. Control of the Supreme Court — not just possibly someday, but immediately — would give either Hillary or Bernie a powerful uniting message after a divisive primary campaign.

Who, then? Various short lists of possible Obama appointees are floating around. At the top of most of them is Sri Srinivasin, who was approved by the Senate unanimously for his current job as a federal appellate judge.

If I were Obama, I would take McConnell’s obstruction threat seriously, and appoint whoever I thought would work best in a why-don’t-they-do-their-jobs attack ad. I’d be looking for a Mr. Rogers type: Somebody who exudes a sense of basic decency, who wouldn’t ring any alarm bells about affirmative action or political correctness.

Recess appointment. Unofficial reports say that Obama will not make a temporary recess appointment, which he could attempt since the Senate is currently not in session. But that path is filled with technicalities and possible disputes. SCOTUS blog summarizes:

The bottom line is that, if President Obama is to successfully name a new Supreme Court Justice, he will have to run the gauntlet of the Republican-controlled Senate, and prevail there.  The only real chance of that: if he picks a nominee so universally admired that it would be too embarrassing for the Senate not to respond.

My suggestion for a recess appointment: Sandra Day O’Connor. She retired to spend more time with her husband, who has since died, and she’s still active as a part-time substitute judge at the appellate level. As a replacement for Scalia, she would move the Court somewhat to the left. But it would be hard for Republicans to justify blocking a judge originally appointed by the sainted President Reagan.

Interesting sidebar here: The Court recently issued a stay blocking President Obama’s plan to limit the carbon emissions of power plants. That indicated that, when the case reaches them from its current location in an appellate court, the Supremes might be inclines to strike it down, almost certainly by the 5-4 ideological split it then had.

Without Scalia, though, and assuming a decision has to be made before he can be replaced, the Court will reach a 4-4 non-decision, and the lower court ruling will stand. The appellate court seems likely to uphold Obama’s action.

and the budget

Another example of the Republicans’ refusal to recognize Obama’s legitimacy as president is that the House is not planning to hold hearings on his budget proposal.

The Republican chairmen of the Senate and House budget committees said last week they were forgoing the decades-long tradition of hearing testimony from the director of the Office of Management and Budget, claiming they expected Obama’s budget to offer little in debt reduction.

and Oregon

The occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge ended Thursday morning after 41 days, when the last four guys surrendered to the FBI. The occupiers got no concessions: The two ranchers whose re-imprisonment sparked the occupation remain in prison. No changes in federal land use policy have been announced. The leaders of the occupation have been arrested and charged.

A bonus was that Cliven Bundy, father of occupation leader Ammon Bundy and the center of a previous armed stand-off in 2014, has also been arrested and charged.

In a 32-page criminal complaint, prosecutors allege Bundy and his co-conspirators led a massive, armed assault against federal officers in April 2014 near the town of Bunkerville, Nev.

According to the U.S. attorney for Nevada, Bundy and his armed supporters on horseback effectively ambushed federal Bureau of Land Management officials as they were trying to round up 400 of Bundy’s cows illegally grazing on federal land.

The way the government backed down from that confrontation undoubtedly emboldened the Malheur occupiers. Bundy and his allies considered the 2014 showdown a victory. If the Malheur occupiers had walked away with concessions, that also would have been a victory, and quite likely would have led to an even more aggressive move in the future.

So far, it looks like the government has played this right: No police or government agents were killed. One occupier died in a confrontation that appears to have been largely of his own making. The government wanted a middle path between the 2014 Bundy showdown and Ruby Ridge; it seems to have found one.

Apparently the evangelist Franklin Graham (Billy’s son) played a role in the surrender of the final occupiers. I’ll be interested to see if he becomes a spokesman for the militiamen.

but more people should be paying attention to Ferguson

That’s covered in this week’s featured post “Back to Ferguson“. The Justice Department says policing in Ferguson has to change to uphold its citizens’ constitutional rights. Ferguson replies: We can’t afford it. So where does the buck stop?

and Darwin

Friday was Charles Darwin’s 207th birthday. That’s my annual reminder to review the evolution/creation discussion.

I said most of what I want to say about it three years ago in “Evolution/Creation for Non-Eggheads“. One thing to add since then: My friend (and occasional Sift commenter) Abby Hafer has published The Not-So-Intelligent Designer: Why evolution explains the human body and intelligent design does not. Her introduction says:

A few years ago, I realized that the whole intelligent design (ID) controversy is not a scientific issue, but a political one. … ID is not a theory, it is a political pressure group. …

Political issues require political arguments, and political arguments are different [from scientific arguments]. Political arguments must be short, easy to understand, memorable, and preferably entertaining.

In my case, I also want them to be true.

One point from the “Non-Eggheads” post I’d like to hit a little harder: If you ever listen to a Creationism/ID talk, you won’t actually hear an alternative scientific theory. Instead, such talks invariably focus on criticisms of evolution (most of which were made and answered in the 1800s). Why? Because they have no alternative scientific theory to present.

Let me give an example to flesh that out a little. According to current evolutionary theory, life on Earth has a single family tree. In other words, any two living things have a common ancestor if you go back far enough. A lot of work has gone into figuring out how that tree branches, what is more closely related to what, and when the common ancestors lived. That work is ongoing, and every now and then our picture of the tree shifts a little as new evidence emerges.

It’s fine to criticize that single-family-tree idea, but a real Creationist alternative theory would answer this very basic question: How many separate family trees are there, even approximately? And that leads to other questions: Did they all begin at the same time? What markers tell us that two living things are from different trees? Then you get to a bunch of more specific research topics: Do lions and house cats have a common ancestor? Collies and poodles? Polar bears and grizzlies? What about the 400,000 species of beetles biologists have postulated? Did 400,000 separate acts of creation lead to 400,000 family trees of beetles, or do some beetle species share a common ancestor?

That’s the kind of stuff a real “creation science” would be researching. You never hear about it, though, because there is no such research and no such theory. Creationist “scientific” organizations spend their money, as Abby says, constructing and popularizing political arguments rather than doing science.

Tax money is still supporting teaching Creationism in Louisiana, and probably other states as well.

and you might also be interested in

When Franklin Graham isn’t mediating between the FBI and crazy people, he’s touring America to rally religious conservatives to be more politically active.

I don’t think we’re going to make it another election cycle if we don’t get God’s voice back in the political arena. … I feel that we are going to have to meet our political obligations as Christians and make our voice known if America is to be preserved with the type of Christian heritage which has given us the liberties we now enjoy. For unless America turns back to God, repents of its sin, and experiences a spiritual revival, we will fail as a nation.

According to Graham, one “great sin that has been flaunted and celebrated” is same-sex marriage.

Here’s what continually amazes me about all the God-will-punish-us-if-we-don’t-turn-back prophecies: When was that God-fearing era we need to “turn back” to? When we were committing genocide against the Native Americans and holding millions of Africans in slavery? Or was it later, during the era of Jim Crow and lynchings? Or when we dropped atomic bombs on cities full of Japanese civilians?

I have a hard time picturing — much less respecting — a God who would shower us with blessings while we were doing all that stuff, but is going to drop us flat now that we’re letting same-sex couples live together in loving relationships.

This week’s guns-make-us-safer story: A guy in Texas opened fire on his neighbor’s puppy, who was trespassing on his lawn. A friend of the puppy’s owner shot back. The dog died. Neither human was wounded, but both are facing felony charges.

Guns don’t kill puppies. Crazy Texans with guns kill puppies.

One of David Wong’s “5 Ways to Spot a B.S. Political Story” is that it’s about “a lawmaker saying something stupid”. He points out that there are so many state legislators that on any given day one of them is bound to have said or done something ignorant or offensive. For that reason, I don’t call your attention to bad laws just because they get proposed in some legislature; I wait to see if they have any real support.

Well, this one does: Senate Bill 1556 made it out of a committee in the Tennessee Senate on 7-1 party-line vote. (That tells you something about the Tennessee Senate right there; there are barely enough Democrats to get one on every committee.) It allows counselors and therapists to refuse to counsel clients “as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with a sincerely held religious belief of the counselor or therapist”. The counselor’s only obligation is to provide a referral.

According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the bill “seeks to protect conservative therapists from 2014 changes in the American Counseling Association’s code of ethics“, which states:

Counselors refrain from referring prospective and current clients based solely on the counselor’s personally held values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Counselors respect the diversity of clients and seek training in areas in which they are at risk of imposing their values onto clients, especially when the counselor’s values are inconsistent with the client’s goals or are discriminatory in nature.

This is yet another example of conservatives abandoning their ideal of “small government” when it proves inconvenient. In short, the counseling profession is not allowed to establish its own code of ethics free from government meddling.

and let’s close with something crazy

A huge controversy erupted after Beyonce sang “Formation” at the Super Bowl, while dressed to honor the Black Panthers. But there’s a background level of crazy here that I previously had not noticed: More than 800K viewers have seen a video detailing all the Illuminati symbolism in previous Super Bowl halftime shows. I mean, we all knew about Madonna (right?), but who suspected Katy Perry of being “a high-level Illuminati witch”? I’ll have to go back and look at her videos again.

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  • Silas Snider  On February 15, 2016 at 11:21 am

    Speaking of ‘Formation’, have you seen the SNL ‘The Day Beyonce Turned Black’ video ( It seems like it would make an excellent illustration of your ‘Distress of the Privileged’.

  • Tom Hutchinson  On February 15, 2016 at 11:50 am

    In honor of Darwins birthday I give you the late Antonin Scalia.

    Scalia: “The body of scientific evidence supporting creation science is as strong as that supporting evolution. In fact, it may be stronger…. The evidence for evolution is far less compelling than we have been led to believe. Evolution is not a scientific fact, since it cannot actually be observed in a laboratory. Rather, evolution is merely a scientific theory or guess…. It is a very bad guess at that. The scientific problems with evolution are so serious that it could accurately be termed a myth.”

    • sglover  On February 15, 2016 at 8:00 pm

      @ Tom Hutchinson : I’m no fan of Scalia — in fact I looked your quote up hoping for more anti-Scalia ammo — but it looks to me like we can’t really say that that’s what Scalia believed. The case is EDWARDS V. AGUILLARD, and you can find a link to Scalia’s dissent here:

      If you search for the phrase “Senator Keith and his witnesses testified”, you’ll get to the section containing your quote. Here Scalia seems to be summarizing the arguments of one side, **not** his own opinions. I’m not a lawyer, but I don’t see Scalia saying anything about his own opinions about Darwinism. (I freely admit to skimming the text, which isn’t exactly my idea of entertaining reading.) As far as I can tell, Scalia is mostly interested in deciding whether teaching creation “science” constitutes governmental support of a particular religion.

      I don’t know what Scalia’s thoughts about Darwinism were, or even if he had any. But I don’t think he expresses a preference in this case.

      • weeklysift  On February 20, 2016 at 7:07 am

        Thanks for pointing that out. I’ve seen that excerpt quoted by a number of people, without regard to the context.

        I don’t make any pretense of being politically unbiased on this blog: I’m a liberal. But I want to get my criticisms of conservatives right. So your comment is very much in the spirit of the blog.

  • joeirvin  On February 15, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    I have long thought the “originalist” or “strict constructionist” theory of constitutional interpretation was a copout and Scalia’s use of it a con job. The “originalist” argument is a way to avoid thinking seriously about a contemporary issue in the context of the Constitution; just dismiss it as irrelevant to 1789 and “get over it.”

    • weeklysift  On February 20, 2016 at 7:13 am

      I see it as similar to “common sense” or “natural law”, both of which bias people towards the way things were when they were growing up. (The world you grew up in tends to seem “sensible” and “natural”, while jarring changes seem the opposite.) To the extent that the full intent of the Founders, particularly as it relates to situations that they could only have speculated about, is unknowable to us, it’s easy to start filling in the gaps with our own “common sense”.

  • Rebecca (@Geaux_RC)  On February 15, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    I wonder if obstructing a nomination to the Supreme Court for 11 months may be where the Republicans finally go a bridge too far. I doubt most Americans pay attention to whether or not the GOP has blocked the appointments of ambassadors, Federal Reserve seats, Treasury sub-secretaries, etc., but the Supreme Court is a pretty visible institution in the United States. Even if the electorate generally doesn’t pay attention to the ins and outs of cases or the impact of precedents, they still know the Supreme Court does big things – like legalizing gay marriage. Loyal conservatives will probably applaud Republican promises to block Obama’s appointment, but for the rest of the country, I don’t know how well it’ll play. Democratic candidates up and down the ballot could make this a central theme in their campaigns – do you really want to elect my Republican opponent? Republicans have stopped the nomination of a qualified candidate to the most important court in the country for purely partisan reasons. They don’t want government to work, they just want to win.

    Unless this blows up the Democratic primary, I don’t see many ways for this actually hurt Democrats or the liberal cause in the long run. Assuming the GOP wins in November and a Republican president is able to appoint a conservative, you can’t get much more conservative than Scalia already was. I suppose it could be worse than Scalia, but the odds of that seem less likely than the odds of this ending up being a serious blunder for the Republicans. If the GOP doesn’t win in November, you still end up with someone more liberal than Scalia ever was and perhaps more liberal than whoever Obama might have nominated to secure an appointment. As a bonus, the Democrats have hit the Republicans for 9 months about obstructionism and partisanship over an institution that is more visible to the American public than just about any other besides the presidency and Congress. It’ll drive turnout on both sides, and when there’s high turnout, Democrats usually do better.

    It seems like a huge risk and the payout will be maintenance of the status quo on the bench. I don’t understand why the GOP didn’t united behind, “We want to honor the memory of Justice Scalia and when the time comes to replace him later this year, we look forward to working with the president to appoint a nominee who will live up to his legacy.” That tosses the ball back in the president’s court; the Republicans can then say they really want to approve a nominee but the president isn’t honoring the legacy of Scalia, he’s upsetting the balance of the court, he’s playing partisan games during an election year, blah blah blah. Vowing to block any Obama nomination before the president has so much as uttered a name keeps this completely on the Republicans. Sure, it sounds great and principled now, but in 6 months, in the middle of the general election, it’s going to sound awful and tired. The GOP has gotten away with failing to govern for years now, but it seems the party has been relatively careful not to do too many stupid, divisive things just before an election. (Who remembered the 2013 shutdown by the time 2014 rolled around?) If this is still looming over the country come November, it risks hurting the Republicans a lot more than the Democrats.

    • jh  On February 15, 2016 at 8:03 pm

      I really want Obama (and I suspect Obama is canny enough to realize how to play this) to pick a group of SCOTUS nominees that are so impressive that the republicans have to figure out how to deal with it. It will be excellent fodder to start to alienating the middle when you have republicans such as Ted Cruz stating that he will shut the government down.

      (And the rebuttal to the “we want to honor Scalia’s legacy is to go “Yes, I want to honor Scalia’s legacy by picking the best legal scholar.” And then feign shock that they want to impose politics onto the judicial branch.)

      My hope – Obama leverages his position as most hated president by conservatives by pushing them further and further right wing bat shit crazy. If Beyonce can drive conservatives crazy with a music video, can you imagine what Obama could do if he is very clever? The trick is to do it very very subtly, sort of like a dog whistle that only conservatives hear so they bark and look like buffoons. And I want the conservatives to shutdown the government so that the fuzzy middle Americans will go “enough’s enough”. It will be tricky because I wouldn’t want a stimulated conservative voting base to get overstimulated while not being able to generate the liberal voting base. (And I really really want conservatives to just listen to Fox News.)

  • The Serapion Brotherhood  On February 15, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    As far as alternative trees of life go, Ken Ham’s minions are turning them out. Their criteria seem to be looking at pictures of animals and guessing which ones had a common ancestor on Noah’s ark (and readers who haven’t been following this, that isn’t a joke). You can see some of their “work” here:

    and some criticism of it here:

    As for appointing Obama to the Supreme Court, doesn’t he seem rather committed to keeping corporate money in politics?

    • Anonymous  On February 17, 2016 at 10:32 am

      “As for appointing Obama to the Supreme Court, doesn’t he seem rather committed to keeping corporate money in politics?”

      This is from his State of the Union speech:
      “We have to reduce the influence of money in our politics, so that a handful of families and hidden interests can’t bankroll our elections — and if our existing approach to campaign finance can’t pass muster in the courts, we need to work together to find a real solution.”

      That sounds to me like he wants to get corporate money out. What are you seeing that suggests that he was to keep it in?

  • DMoses  On February 15, 2016 at 6:41 pm

    Chris Rock had a wonderful comment about responses to Barack Obama being elected that i remind myself of when i see comments like yours about Scalia. The responses were that ‘this was a progress for black Americans’ and Rock commented that rather it was progress for white Americans. Black Americans didn’t change, white American’s got less crazy.

    In short, I am not sure that Scalia ever had principled opinions. It seems more likely that the rest of us just got less crazy and Antonin remained as vile as he ever was.

    Case in point is his ’96 dissent in Romer v Evans where he wrote the famous line “The Court has mistaken a Kulturkampf for a fit of spite”. But think about this for a second, it doesn’t make any sense either way. If the Colorado amendment was a Kulturkampf that is being mistaken then holy moley it should be overturned and no mistake is necessary. If its a fit of spite then maybe it shouldn’t be.

    Strictly though Scalia was saying that the government of Colorado should be able to engage in culture war against homosexuals and he did so by referencing Germany deporting Catholic priests and teachers and stripping them of their citizenship as the model for what should be ok!

    Here is is in ’92 about religious prayer at public school graduation ceremonies: see: Lee v. Weisman

    “I find it a sufficient embarrassment that our Establishment Clause jurisprudence regarding holiday displays has come to “requir[e] scrutiny more commonly associated with interior decorators than with the judiciary.” But interior decorating is a rock hard science compared to psychology practiced by amateurs.”

    or in 87 for his dissent of Edwards v. Aguillard (teaching creationism)

    Where he claimed that because it was unknowable to know the mind if any/every legislature that any test based on the “purpose of a law” was nonsense.

    Which of course is nonsense as purpose can be inferred from language and effect by simple deduction (that is, we can see what the purpose could not have been and so what is left is the set of possible purposes) or induction.

    All of these were long before Scalia had become the resident “crank” on the court in the zeitgeist. And the more i look back with a modern lens the more it becomes clear that Scalia was never principled. He was always the mold for partisan Republican jurists.

  • sglover  On February 15, 2016 at 8:26 pm

    On Saturday I happened to catch part of a C_SPAN interview of Scalia, over the car radio. I suspect that if you search YouTube for “Brian Lamb Scalia interview” you’ll find it, and in the last 3-5 minutes you’ll get this remarkable exchange (paraphrased here):


    Lamb: What about Citizens United? What about the influence of money in politics?

    Scalia: What’s not to like? Money just fuels more speech. More speech is good! Don’t you believe we can trust trust our fellow citizens to make intelligent decisions?

    Lamb: We’re almost out of time. You oppose television cameras in the court. Why?

    Scalia: (After some preliminary remarks about how his views changed) People would end up seeing only snippets, taken out of context. They would form incorrect opinions of our proceedings.


    So the judgement of Americans can be trusted — so long as it doesn’t touch Nino’s turf. This is evidence of either a remarkably flexible mind, or a guy who’s predisposed to a decision and after the fact tries to shore it up however he can.

    I’ve asked lawyers I know to explain the whole “original intent” concept, because I can’t understand how it can possibly fly. I keep imagining the equivalent in other disciplines: Engineers refusing to consider electric generators or gas turbines, because steam was good enough for James Watt. Or chemists ignoring the Periodic Table, which after all came **after** Dalton and Lavoisier. I thought that perhaps my understanding of “original intent” was naive, that maybe there’s some profound and subtle truth that I’m missing. So far none of the people I’ve asked has shown me that my understanding is wrong. If Scalia’s an example of a great legal mind, law has a helluva lotta catching up to do….

  • Larry Benjamin  On February 16, 2016 at 7:11 am

    Scalia isn’t even in the ground yet, so the comments of McConnell and others regarding his replacement is nothing more than thoughtless reaction. It’s like a teenage girl who’s just been dumped by her boyfriend, crying that she’ll never date anyone ever again. Notice that McConnell’s response was slightly different from that of the GOP candidates – they said that the Senate should delay, while McConnell said that Obama should not nominate anyone. So if Obama does, in fact, nominate someone, the Senate will consider them.

    Obama knows he’s not going to get a clone of Ginsburg, and McConnell knows he won’t get a clone of Scalia. So Obama will propose a centrist with stellar credentials, and the Senate will confirm them. The indication that this is successful will be the extremists on both sides claiming that the eventual appointee is a radical.

  • orionblair  On February 16, 2016 at 10:14 am

    Another interesting take on Scalia, courtesy of my friend Marvin:

    View at

  • DavisM  On February 18, 2016 at 10:33 pm

    Soooo….you’re saying that politicians will be politicians or that justices on the SCOTUS tend to be partisan or is it that “only” conservative justices are partisan and the liberal justices are always correct and are clad in the golden armor of civility?

    • weeklysift  On February 20, 2016 at 7:24 am

      I think the standards are much higher on the liberal side. This situation is a good example: When Republican presidents have faced a Democratic senate, they did not always get all their appointments through. But they did get all their nominations considered. Only in the Obama administration have Republicans taken the view that the individual qualifications of presidential nominees didn’t matter, and that the Senate could refuse to take up any nominee.

      Senate Republicans have done this before. For example, until the filibuster rules were changed, they blocked consideration of any nominee to head the Consumer Financial Protection Board. That has no parallel in recent American history, and maybe in all of American history.


  • By Replacing Scalia (or not) | The Weekly Sift on February 22, 2016 at 7:40 am

    […] I pointed out last week, the Constitution is pretty clear about what should happen now: President Obama should nominate a […]

  • By Carrying a Presidency to Term | The Weekly Sift on February 22, 2016 at 10:53 am

    […] Last week I talked about my personal reaction to Scalia’s death, and in particular wrestling with my feeling of joy in the removal of a powerful enemy. […]

  • By Very Bad Things | The Weekly Sift on March 21, 2016 at 11:04 am

    […] feeling a little smug about the advice I gave right after Justice Scalia’s […]

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