The headline writers of the American media need to get something straight: When Senate Republicans say they won’t consider anyone President Obama nominates to the Supreme Court, they are refusing to take their constitutional duties seriously. They are defying (and lying about) historical precedent. They are acting out of pure partisanship. They are picking a fight.
When President Obama nominates a qualified candidate, he is just doing his job.
So we shouldn’t be seeing headlines like “Obama chooses to fight over Court” or “President Raises Stakes in Supreme Court Nominee Battle.” Because, no. Obama chooses to do his job. President rejects Republican politicization of Supreme Court nomination.
We shouldn’t even be getting headlines like “Obama rejects GOP calls to let next president choose Scalia's successor,” because that still makes those “GOP calls” sound more reasonable and less unprecedented than they are in the world of reality. Let’s look at the reporting there.
President Obama on Tuesday vowed to nominate an “indisputably qualified” candidate to the Supreme Court, forcefully rejecting Republican calls that he cede the pick to his successor because the Court vacancy comes late in his presidency and in the middle of an election year.
“There’s no unwritten law that says it can only be done on off years,” Obama said at news conference marking the end of a summit with Southeast Asian leaders. The news conference focused exclusively on domestic political concerns and Mideast strife, and was dominated by questions about picking a successor for Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last weekend while on a hunting trip in Texas. “That’s not in the constitutional text. I’m amused when I hear people who claim to be strict interpreters of the Constitution suddenly reading into it a whole series of provisions that are not there.”
There’s your headline right there in the first damn sentence: “Obama vows ‘indisputably qualified’ Supreme Court nominee” or some variation on those words. Or, from more of Obama’s words in the same press conference, “Obama decries ‘venom and rancor’ in Supreme Court confirmation process.” There are all sorts of ways to report on what Obama said and not present historically unprecedented Republican obstruction threats as neutral and unremarkable, instead of putting Obama in the position of being the one to elevate conflict by “rejecting” or “choosing to fight” or “raising stakes.”
It’s really not that complicated.