Now that the Presidential race is very likely between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the White House has decided to troll the GOP fully by nominating a Supreme Court justice, just in time for everyone to panic about whether they’d be better off taking a kind-of, sort-of moderate over whatever the two top Presidential contenders would supply to SCOTUS to replace Antonin Scalia.
The President, for his part, has chosen Judge Merrick Garland, who, aside from having a basically perfect Supreme Court justice name, is the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, and – as far as liberal justices go – better than could reasonably be expected from the Obama Administration.
President Barack Obama will nominate federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court on Wednesday, challenging Republicans to reject a long-time jurist and former prosecutor known as a consensus builder on what is often dubbed the nation’s second-highest court.
Garland, 63, is the chief judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a court whose influence over federal policy and national security matters has made it a proving ground for potential Supreme Court justices.
Garland is, by no means, a fully conservative replacement for Justice Scalia. He is more conservative on some surprising issues, however – he’s considered to be a friend of law enforcement, and supported George W. Bush’s indefinte GitMo detention program for suspected terrorists caught on the battlefield. But he’s been remarkably liberal on things like gun control, which leads most legal scholars to believe that Garland would be best described as a “big government liberal,” supporting a strong central government, with a large footprint and extensive regulation.
He’s also a comic book geek.
There are arguments for Garland, though: he may be the best that the Republicans can hope for out of the Obama camp – and, by extension, the Hillary Clinton camp. Garland is definitely capable, smart and qualified (he’s a former clerk for Justice Brennan, Harvard grad and alumni of the DC Circuit, which is considered great training for SCOTUS. He’s definitely ready and willing, and he’s been on a number of short lists before, not just Obama’s (though he was most recently on the short list for the seat eventually occupied by Sonia Sotomayor).
But the question now remains if he’s the best Republicans can hope for, period. A Trump Presidency brings with it a wealth of uncertainty, and the potential for, say, Supreme Court Justice Ommarosa. Or Supreme Court Justice Trump’s sister, which would be a travesty. But, once elected, in the unlikely event Trump listens to the party and the conservatives he’s never listened to before, there’s a slight – perhaps molecular – chance that the GOP could get a good nomination. But then there’s the question of whether a Trump nomination kills the GOP’s chances of holding the House and Senate; if disgruntled Republican voters stay home, even stalwarts are in danger, meaning that a Democratic Houes and Senate could easily run roughshod over the process. The margin of error here is razor thin.
So, ultimately, the question is: will Republicans roll the dice? Frankly, I don’t think they will until, perhaps, after the nominations for President are settled. Why risk it now?