A Mountain Of GOP Hypocrisy, Dead Ahead

[ Posted Tuesday, October 25th, 2016 – 16:35 UTC ]

Assuming the polls are not "rigged," and barring any last-minute revelations in the campaign season, Hillary Clinton is going to be our next president. The chances of this becoming true have been increasing ever since the first general election debate, and they now seem to have crossed the borderline into near-certainty. If Democrats also pick up at least four Senate seats as well, we should all be prepared for a steaming pile of hypocrisy from Republican senators immediately thereafter, as they fall all over themselves in a rush to confirm Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court before Barack Obama leaves office.

Right after Antonin Scalia died (indeed, literally before his body was even cold), Republicans swore they were going to completely ignore their constitutional duty altogether. They cited precedents and traditions (which did not actually exist), in the hopes of running out the clock until they could wrest the White House away from Democrats. But if Hillary Clinton is going to be in the Oval Office for the next four years, Republicans are almost certainly going to do such a dramatic Immelmann turn on the issue that the entire country risks getting caught in the whiplash.

Republicans, of course, hope that nobody's going to notice. I say this confidently because they began this whole charade by honoring a man who devoted his life to the "original intent" of the Constitution by just flat-out ignoring the original intent of the Constitution, on judicial vacancies. It's a wonder Scalia's body didn't start violently spinning even before it reached the grave, when Mitch McConnell (backed by many others in the GOP) didn't just promise that no Obama nominee would be confirmed by the Senate, but that indeed Obama should not even make such a provocative nomination in the first place. And, for good measure, the Senate wouldn't even hold hearings on the nominee, much less an up-or-down vote.

As I wrote immediately after Scalia died:

However, the Constitution actually has no passage in it which states that presidents only get three out of their four years to nominate judges. In fact, the language is pretty unequivocal: the president "shall nominate." Not "has the option to nominate" or "shall nominate, except when politically problematic," or any other such nonsense. Obama has not only the right to nominate whomever he wishes to replace Scalia, it is in fact his sworn duty to do so. Democrats will, no doubt, be reminding all those originalist Republicans about this language in the months to come. Any Republican suggesting that Obama should just refuse to make a nomination is actually arguing for Obama to ignore the Constitution -- something that, normally, makes them quite upset.

Perhaps realizing that arguing for Obama to ignore his constitutional duty was a bit far-fetched (even for them), Senate Republicans soon began peddling two different flavors of nonsense. The first was that "The People" should get a say in Supreme Court nominations. This is just flat-out wrong, because (hold onto Scalia, he's starting to rotate again!) the Constitution does not give The People any direct say whatsoever in the process. The second pile of moose poop emanating from Republicans was that postponing the confirmation process until after the election would somehow "depoliticize" it -- even though doing so would guarantee that the selection process would become even more politicized than it already is. The fact that these two bits of balderdash actually contradict each other was ignored by Republicans (if "The People" have their say in an election, then by definition that is politicizing the issue). One further argument was made that was also built out of moonbeams: tradition dictated that no president nominate a justice in his final year in office. This one was the easiest to disprove, merely by cracking a decent history book.

Here's a quote from Orrin Hatch from this period, which encapsulates all of this idiocy in one tidy pile. When he uttered it, I even devoted an entire rant to disproving Hatch, sentence by sentence.

And so I do support Sen. McConnell in saying, but, look, let's get it out of this terrible presidential brouhaha that is going on, and let's get it over to the next year, and be fair to both sides, because what would happen is whoever wins the presidency is going to be able to make this nomination.

Usually, you never nominate anyone during the last year of a president. And the reason for that is because -- well, there are many reasons, but one reason is because there's always a very contested Senate primaries and also election, and, secondly, generally, one side or the other is going to get very, very upset about it.

Well, I'm saying the Republicans shouldn't act on it, because the proper way is to get this done in a way that cools the whole process around electing judges, and in particular justices to the United States Supreme Court.

I just don't want the court politicized. And this would be the biggest politicization the court in history. And that is saying something, because there have been some other times that certainly would come close to matching this.

But, in all honesty, I just don't want to see the court denigrated any further than it would be in this very caustic election year with the way things are going right now.

Republicans all sang from this songbook, while explaining why they were going to ignore their own constitutional duty as it applied to Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland. But then they got a little greedy, and started speculating about a possible "Plan B" -- obstruct Obama right up to the election, and then if the election didn't turn out the way they wanted, they could just quickly confirm Garland in the lame-duck period. I called such mental gymnastics "triplethink," with the proper obeisance to George Orwell [Editorial note: this article was written on St. Patrick's Day, for one particular phrase's context]:

Let's review the spiral down into irony of the Senate Republicans' thinking. The Constitution is not a "living document" and must be obeyed to the letter. Except, of course, when a Democrat is in the White House. Then you can just start making stuff up. Like inventing a "tradition" that has never existed -- presidents aren't allowed to nominate Supreme Court justices in their final year of office (even though over a dozen out of 44 of them have done so in the past). Furthermore, The People should have a say in the selection -- even though the Constitution was written to take this choice as far away from the popular vote as possible. Judicial appointments were to be made with several buffer layers erected in place of The People ever "having a say" in the process. The Electoral College, the fact that the senators were not originally elected by popular vote -- there are many barriers between the popular vote and judicial appointments in the very same document conservatives are supposed to revere. But none of that matters, because a Democrat is in the White House. A tradition that never was of letting The People have their say (even though the Constitution is designed to prevent this) will avoid "politicization" of the selection, by placing it squarely in the midst of the most political event Americans experience (a presidential election). But now, sensing that the next president might also be a Democrat, Republicans are conceding that they're just hypocritical con-men peddling pure Leprechaun-poop about The People, because if The People elect someone Republicans don't like, then they will ignore The People entirely and just go ahead and confirm Obama's nominee after The People have spoken. Some Republicans in the Senate might have lost their jobs by that point, so they would be voting in direct opposition to their own constituents' wishes.

Got all that? Triplethink! Irony is dead! Hypocrisy is noble! Ignorance is bliss! We're into such uncharted territory that the only way out is a grand gesture to counteract the free-flowing idiocy erupting from the other side.

Senator Al Franken, who is a far superior wordsmith than yours truly, summed this up in a much more succinct fashion:

I hear, "OK, let the people decide, and the presidential election should decide." But then I hear colleagues from the other side say, "Well, you know what, if the election goes the wrong way, I'd be happy to consider this nomination in the lame duck," How absurd is that? So it's: "Let the people decide, unless they decide on Hillary Clinton, in which case let us decide."

Which is precisely where we're about to find ourselves. In approximately two weeks' time, Senate Republicans are suddenly going to pretend they never advocated for The People to have any say in this process at all, and are going to execute that logical Immelmann turn: "We were just kidding about letting the voters have their say, now what matters is denying a Supreme Court pick to Hillary Clinton." In other words, it was all about politics from the very beginning.

Some of us have been speculating about this scenario from the get-go. Here's what I wrote one day after noting Scalia's passing:

The outgoing Republican Senate would likely only be motivated to act if they were faced with an incoming Democratic president and losing control of the Senate. They might get excoriated by the Republican base (who would be licking their wounds from a big election loss anyway) for approving an Obama nominee, but they would be spinning it as the "least of the bad choices," which might help deflect the inevitable political heat.

At the time, this "incoming Democratic president" could have been either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, showing how long ago it was written. But I don't claim prophetic abilities or anything -- the entire article is a "touch all the bases" examination of every possible election outcome for the White House and the Senate. So this was but one passage in a flurry of exhaustive speculation about the possibilities.

In any case, here we are. The possibility of Hillary Clinton winning the election is extremely high. The possibility of Democrats taking back the Senate is not nearly as high, but still quite good. If this does come to pass, Republicans are (predictably) going to bend over backwards trying to convince everyone that they never advocated that The People have their say in who sits on the highest court in the land. "We never said that," they'll all proclaim, all video evidence to the contrary.

Whatever the excuse Senate Republicans manage to come up with, they will indeed all join in a mad rush to hold immediate confirmation hearings on Obama's pick -- a man who is a lot more moderate and a lot older than Hillary Clinton is presumably going to choose.

This is where, all along, I've been arguing that President Obama himself should cut through their steaming mound of hypocrisy. "You wanted The People to decide, right?" Obama should say, the day after the election. "Well, you got your wish -- I am hereby formally withdrawing Merrick Garland's nomination. Hillary Clinton will get to name a Supreme Court pick on her first day in office -- just like you guys said you wanted. Call it an early Christmas present, because I'm going to give you exactly what you asked for!"

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


29 Comments on “A Mountain Of GOP Hypocrisy, Dead Ahead”

  1. [1] 
    neilm wrote:

    I'd like Obama to withdraw the nomination, but I don't think he will for two reasons:

    1. He just isn't that guy - Garland has done nothing to deserve being used as a political pawn, and for the Democrats to use him as a pawn as well is below Obama

    2. The Republicans would then force the new Senate to "go nuclear" on day one by filibustering every Hillary nomination, and I don't think Hillary wants to start her presidency by writing off any hope of being able to work with the Republicans

  2. [2] 
    apophis wrote:

    I would like to see Merrick withdraw his name just before the election. The Cook Report Has Senate Democrats Poised to Pick Up 5-7 Seats. If they do who do think will "go nuclear". My guess is Shumer will drop the bomb on day 1...

  3. [3] 
    TheStig wrote:

    All I can say is, get ready for some Quadruple Think on this matter. Obstruction is in their DNA.

    I think Mitch McConnell lost his upper plate sometime in 1917 executing one those Immelmann turns you mentioned. It drifted out of his mouth while he was grinning during the zero G part and got lost under the Fokker's seat.

  4. [4] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    The Republicans really are going to destroy the GOP if they believe their base wants them to continue to stop any government action from occurring. The Republicans focus on everything but the people that vote them into office, and their base are sick and tired of being lied to and ignored by politicians. If Trump winning the nomination wasn't a clear enough message that the base is fed up with the status quo, I don't know that anything will cause those leading the GOP into oblivion to wake up in time to avoid their demise. I have said all along that I felt that Bart Simpson could have just as easily have been the Republican nominee had his name been on the ballots because the majority of Republicans who voted for Trump were not actually voting for him as much as they were trying to convey their disappointment to the establishment. Those that we see at his rallies do not make up the larger number that won him the nomination, but are from the fringe. The majority who voted for Trump, and are now voting for Hillary or a third party, have been largely ignored by the media and the GOP. They are not the "deplorables", but they are still just as unhappy with how the Republicans have performed in office. Staying the course is just going to be a slap in their collective faces.

  5. [5] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Do you think people attending Hillary's inauguration will be willing to stay at Trump's new DC hotel, or will it be the only hotel in the area not completely booked up?

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    testing ...

  7. [7] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    neilm [1] -

    You're probably right, about Obama. When he was asked, he insisted he wouldn't pull the nomination (he was asked six months or so ago, from memory).

    But, I think your second point is wrong. Either of two things could happen -- the Senate Dems could filibuster the vote in the lame duck (meaning Obama could keep his hands clean). This would tank Garland's nomination unless Hillary renominated him.

    And I think the Dems might control the Senate and that Schumer will drop the nuke on the SCOTUS filibuster first day in office. That would make the GOP (if they're in the minority) powerless to stop Hillary's nominations. They'd certainly be justified in doing so, since McCain already let the cat out of the bag on what they plan to do.

    apophis [2] -

    Agree on the nuke. Also, that's a good point I hadn't considered -- Garland himself could withdraw. Would be an incredibly selfless act, if he did, but from all reports he's a totally stand-up kind of guy, so I could indeed see this happening. Hadn't considered that option...

    TheStig [3] -

    Isn't it fun to type out "Immelmann"?


    ListenWhenYouHear [4] -

    Dunno why, but I always mistype your handle as "ListenWhileYouHear"...

    Yes, but aren't the same base voters who elevated Trump the same ones who actually DO want the GOP to stop everything in its tracks unless they get 100% of what they're asking for?

    I guess another way to ask this is how much overlap do you think there is between Trump voters and Tea Party supporters?

    As for [5], now THAT was funny! Heard Trump is holding another brand name rollout tomorrow to open it. Bet the press gets snookered into covering it once again!



  8. [8] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    LizM -

    Hah! The filter fix worked!


    Glad to see you back... let me know if you have trouble posting in the future...


  9. [9] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Thanks again, Chris!

  10. [10] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    agree completely on the nomination. more on obama and GOP hypocrisy:


  11. [11] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    i hope you're doing okay down there, surviving all the circumstances. i may not have much time to comment, but i've been missing your twelve consecutive post rants. plus, who else here is going to convince people that donald still has a chance?


  12. [12] 
    TheStig wrote:


    It is fun to type out Immelmann turn, but I confess I just cut and pasted from this very column!

    I commend you for using Immelmann turn, which is a steep climb to a near stall condition, quick kick of the rudder to reverse direction followed by a pull up to level flight. You reverse direction without changing altitude while maintaining airspeed. Dead on perfect analogy to the political version!

    A plain old Immelmann (sans turn) has come to mean a half loop followed by a rollout at the top. Reverse direction, gain altitude, but lose airspeed. An airshow stunt, but generally not a clever combat move, aerial or political.

  13. [13] 
    altohone wrote:

    Hey CW

    It is interesting that Dems have been so uncritical of Obama's choice of Garland.

    Obviously, he's better than Scalia, but with an opportunity to influence the direction of the court more profoundly, Obama choosing a "moderate" was a sell out to our neoliberal establishment.

    I have zero faith in Hillary picking someone better though, so this discussion seems to really just be about scoring political points... not getting a choice that liberal Dems would be happier about.

    The discussion, or rather lack thereof, of the serious implications of invoking the nuclear option is also troubling.

    Hillary beating Trump is not in any way a good measure of her ability to beat anybody slightly better than Trump in four years.
    Holding on to control of the Senate, assuming it flips to the Dems (which should have been a given this year but isn't because of Hillary's high disapproval numbers) is far from a certainty too.

    So, not discussing the fact that the nuclear option may have severe consequences for Dems if Repubs gain the presidency and the Senate in 4 or 8 years or any time in the future is a disservice.
    The filibuster may be a tool Dems will wish they still had if that happens.


  14. [14] 
    altohone wrote:


    I was beginning to worry.
    Glad you're back.


  15. [15] 
    Paula wrote:

    Been busily volunteering these last weeks. The GOTV effort here in northeast Ohio is well-organized and moving forward relentlessly. My husband and I voted early last week.

    Our "boss" is a 22-year-old black woman who began working on political campaigns when she was 12. She's paid staff -- hails from Georgia. After the election she plans to get serious about choosing a school to obtain a graduate degree. She is organized, unflappable and amazing.

    Last weekend, and for the next two, (plus election-day-eve and election-day) my husband and I are working as the "Greeter" (me) and "Tracker" (him) at one of the staging areas for GOTV for our county district.

    Our "Staging Location Director" is a future Hillary Clinton -- she is a 17-year-old girl who, in her spare time, competes on Academic Challenge and the like. Just a brilliant and dedicated young woman.

    Our Canvassing Captain is a 36-year-old Social Worker, and our "Comfort Captain" is an elderly black woman who does amazing phone-banking work.
    Only our Boss is paid; the rest of us are volunteers.

    It's been wonderful working with these people. The Staging Location manages and tracks Canvassing Volunteers who are given packets of materials, a map and lists of addresses to visit. I, personally, don't particularly enjoy canvassing, although I did some on Sunday. But these other women actually love canvassing, thank goodness. Volunteer canvassers have exhibited the range of age/gender/ethnicity you'd expect, and that's always cool to see.

    There's also phone-banking going on -- we're working out of a Church gymnasium and we had a great group of people making calls last weekend.

    Ohio will be a good barometer, I think, for determining the value of ground-games. Or good ground-games, at any rate. Not sure what the Republicans are doing here but I don't think they're doing nearly as much as we are.

    We'll see.

  16. [16] 
    Paula wrote:

    And for a positive story about a police dept: As police chief of gritty Richmond, California, Chris Magnus embraced Black Lives Matter, all but eliminated fatal shootings by police, and cut the homicide rate in half.

  17. [17] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Hi Al!

    No, my commenting privileges were just suspended for a while, that's all... well, that and the fact that I've been stressed, exhausted and overwhelmed, lately. See, I can admit to that ... :)

    And, thanks very much for the kind words so beautifully stated the other day in another comment thread. Actually, part of my stress came from the fact that I couldn't respond!

  18. [18] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    ... the feeling is mutual, by the way. :)

  19. [19] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    TheStig [12] -

    Excellent definition, avoiding what the term has come to mean and giving us the original maneuver! 50 points to Gryffindor!

    Heh. I think I learned the term either from reading "The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers" comic, or from one of the Mad Max films (the one with the crazy flying contraption -- didn't he do an Immelmann in that movie? I forget).

    altohone [13] -

    I think Obama chose Garland in the hopes of actually getting someone confirmed -- he knew that ideologically the GOP couldn't muster an argument against the guy.

    But you seem to contradict yourself. If Garland is really that bad, isn't it pretty much a given that anyone Clinton would nominate would be better?

    My only fear with a Clinton nominee is that she'll pick someone with too much deference to corporations. She might make a mostly-liberal pick but a neo-liberal one (a "DLC" type pick). But then again, she's been promising to pick someone to overturn Citizens United, so it'd be pretty hard for her to do so politically, at least on her first pick.

    Good point about the possible damage if the WH and Senate flips to GOP control, but since that's the way the country operated until the creation of the filibuster, I could live with it (wouldn't Scalia be pleased? A liberal arguing "original intent"! heh).

    Paula [15] -

    Excellent report from the grounds-eye view of how Ohio is going! Thanks!

    I too wonder what the difference is going to be, since Clinton is obviously fielding a much better ground game than either Trump or the RNC. Pollsters say this sort of thing can have about a 1-3% impact on the race. In Ohio, that might be enough to claim victory. I too will be interested to see the post-election analysis on this score.

    LizM [17] -- and to everyone else! --

    LizM's commenting priveleges were automatically suspended by a filter error! Which took me far too long to fix, but seems to be better now.

    Just didn't want anyone to think I had blocked LizM, since she is one of our favorite commenters here and has been for a very long time! It's hard for me to even imagine what it would take for me to actively ban her from commenting -- just to be crystal clear, everyone!



  20. [20] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:


    Welcome back! I've missed your insight and glad you are OK.

    Paula [16]

    Thank you for the link to this great story. I sent it to Devon (my cop hubby) and told him it was required reading for him! Loved Magnus' attitude towards protesters!


  21. [21] 
    altohone wrote:




  22. [22] 
    altohone wrote:

    Hey CW

    My writing is occasionally sloppy, so I double checked.

    I'm not seeing a contradiction.

    "My only fear with a Clinton nominee is that she'll pick someone with too much deference to corporations."

    Just like Garland.

    Am I unaware of something about him that makes him worse than your typical neoliberal establishmentarian?
    Please share if you think so.


  23. [23] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:


    I just read this beautiful article on Joe Biden and wanted to share it with ya.

  24. [24] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Thanks, Russ! This has got to be the very best place on the internets to find quality people engaging in good discussion.

    Thanks for the heads up on the Biden piece ... I'll save it for the weekend when I can devote the time necessary to go through it!

    And, I join with everyone here in wishing all the very best for Michale as he gets through the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew ... we miss ya, Michale ... take good care!

  25. [25] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Without reading the piece, Russ, the title struck me ... I think it's ass-backwards. :)

    I can't imagine an Obama administration without the guidance and expertise of Joe Biden ... more later ...

    Thanks again!

  26. [26] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:


    Yes, but aren't the same base voters who elevated Trump the same ones who actually DO want the GOP to stop everything in its tracks unless they get 100% of what they're asking for?

    No, the base voters are not the ones that demand complete and total loyalty on every issue! The proof: both McCain and Romney beat out far more conservative candidates and won the nomination running as "moderates".

    I used to have a sheet that showed all of the positions McCain held during the primaries that he flipped on once he had the nomination that I wish I could find. The most glaring attribute about each of the positions that he flip flopped on: they were similar to the position that Obama held on the same issue! The GOP's propaganda machine needed Obama's positions to always be contested and viewed negatively, and this sheet made that abundantly clear.

    I guess another way to ask this is how much overlap do you think there is between Trump voters and Tea Party supporters?

    I'm guessing that Tea-Party supporters make up 80-90% of Trump's die hard groupies.

  27. [27] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:


    Yeah, I thought the same thing, but I definitely think that the article's content more than made up for the crappy title!


  28. [28] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Chris [19]


  29. [29] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:


    On the front page, the comment counter says there are 31 comments for this article, but when I open it, there are only 28. I've refreshed a couple of times and it shows the same. Just FYI

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