Associate Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead of apparent natural causes Saturday on a luxury resort in West Texas, federal officials said.I assumed Scalia was having too good a time to die before ninety. Poking liberals in the ribs and wallowing in his own exalted sense of himself seemed to be a youth tonic for him. I can't believe he's gone.
Scalia, 79, was a guest at the Cibolo Creek Ranch, a resort in the Big Bend region south of Marfa.
According to a report, Scalia arrived at the ranch on Friday and attended a private party with about 40 people. When he did not appear for breakfast, a person associated with the ranch went to his room and found a body.
So now President Obama gets to nominate a successor, right? Yes, but I don't see much reason to hope that he can get a replacement approved. On this subject, Republicans are largely going to have message discipline. Many of them are going to argue, in all seriousness, that Obama is a lame duck, and therefore not really president, so he should let the next president replace Scalia. They'll say that we're in the midst of a campaign to choose his successor, so even offering up a nominee would be the height of arrogance. The Constitution says nothing of the sort, but these self-styled worshipers of our founding documents will talk as if Obama is betraying American values just by doing his job.
Once the president chooses a successor to Scalia, nearly every Republican will tell us that the nominee is the most radical person ever to be proposed as a Supreme Court justice -- no matter who it is. A party that's about to nominate Donald Trump for the presidency will declare one or two of the nominee's utterances, writings, or acts as unquestionably disqualifying -- and shocking.
And the press will accept all of this. It will all be treated as normal hardball, because look at what happened to Robert Bork thirty years ago!
Even if what Republicans do is treated as obstructionism, Obama will be held partly to blame, because, we'll be told, he didn't have drinks with members of Congress after work.
I don't know what kind of nominee we'll get from the president. He hasn't been much in the mood for compromise these days -- maybe he's going to pick a true progressive and let the chips fall where they may. But I think he won't want to squander this opportunity. He'll want to try to find someone who can get through the Senate. But there may not be any such person -- unless, of course, Obama were to nominate someone from a GOP wish list. Republicans will, in all seriousness, tell us that the president is being unreasonable because he isn't considering movement conservatives. They'll name some of the most right-wing jurists in America and ask why Obama didn't pick one of them. And when they say this, many in the press will nod in agreement.
UPDATE: As I was saying....
Almost immediately after the first public confirmation that Justice Antonin Scalia had died, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled that the GOP-controlled Senate would block President Obama from nominating Scalia's successor.
"The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice," McConnell said in a statement. "Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.”
McConnell's statement came as a chorus of conservatives called for the confirmation process to be delayed until the next President takes office in January 2017.