We’re going to have to face a painful fact: Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans are just not that bright.
The body of the late Justice Antonin Scalia was barely cold before McConnell and his lackeys rushed to warn everybody not to politicize this solemn moment, about three seconds before they began politicizing it for all they were worth.
McConnell, Toddler-Terrifying Ted Cruz and Young Marco Robotto — sorry, I mean Rubio — declared that there’s an 80-year-old “rule” against a president nominating a Supreme Court Justice in the last year of his term.
They had discovered this rule by the research method known as “making stuff up.”
Turns out, this situation where one of the Supremes shuffles off this mortal coil in the last year of a presidency just doesn’t happen all that often, certainly not often enough that one could glean so much as a guideline, let alone a rule, from history.
The Constitution — which the wingnuts claim to revere but apparently know jack-squat about — is very clear that the president “shall” nominate, among various other officers, “Justices of the Supreme Court” and appoint them “with the advice and consent of the Senate.”
So we have the spectacle of the president doing his constitutional duty, and the Senate saying, “We won’t advise, we won’t consent. Heck, we won’t even meet the nominee.” Having demonstrated their own uselessness as a Senate, they now appear to be dead-set on rendering another of the three branches of government as paralyzed as they are.
Where the “three no’s” (no meetings, no hearings, no vote) that McConnell et al. have promised to stick to are found in the Constitution has never been explained. Like the supposed “80-year rule” against nominating in an election year, this appears to be pure applesauce, as the late Justice Scalia was fond of saying.
Not only is this behavior by the Republicans against both the letter and the spirit of the Constitution, but it’s also foolish. If the Republicans hold the line on their promise to delay even a hearing till after the election, they’ll keep this issue open until Election Day.
They’ll give whoever the Democratic nominee is a perfect example of the kind of mulish obstructionism that people are so heartily and vocally sick of.
They are handing even a half-smart candidate a club the size of a California Redwood to thrash them with on a daily basis, and both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are not half-smart — they are both very, very smart.
The current course of action by the Senate Republicans seems perfectly calculated to lose not only the presidency but the Senate. When that happens, folks, stuff’s gonna get real, as the kids say.
Or consider this alternative scenario: A few Senate Republicans actually do their jobs, defy the leadership, and give the candidate nominated by the president a hearing.
Centrists and independents say, “Hey, maybe these guys are reasonable after all,” but the wingnuts scream, “OMG! We are betrayed again by the evil party establishment!” and tear the party to shreds before handing the raggedy, bloodstained banner of the presidential nomination to “outsider” Donald Trump.
Democrats win the presidency and the Senate, and get to replace not only Scalia, but Ginsburg, Kennedy and probably Breyer as well.
Majority Leader McConnell is leading his party into the political equivalent of the Valley of the Little Big Horn. He and his supporters in the Senate should turn their horses around and get the heck back to the high ground.
They should face the reality that President Barack Obama was indeed elected to that job, by large margins, and he’s going to do the job till the last day in office.
But they should also demand the sort of bland centrist that Obama will almost certainly give them to avoid a fight, then run for the rest of the year on who gets the next three appointments.
They've really not thought this through, which I suppose is no surprise to anyone. I hate to say it, but they’re just not that smart.
OK, that’s a lie. I love to say it.
Dusty Rhoades lives, writes and practices law in Carthage. His new novel, “Ice Chest,” is available now.