Tag Archives: Antonin Scalia

AG Garland rises to occasion

As I look at and listen to Attorney General Merrick Garland I am filled with an odd sense of fulfillment … and I wonder if he feels something akin to it, too.

In early 2016, President Barack H. Obama nominated Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court to succeed the iconic conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died suddenly while vacationing in Texas. Garland had served with distinction on the D.C. Appeals Court, so Obama thought he’d be a good fit for the highest court in the land.

The Republican majority leader in the Senate said “not so fast.” He blocked Garland’s appointment by declaring we were “too close” to a presidential election. Mitch McConnell wanted to wait until the 2016 election concluded. He was hoping the GOP nominee would win. His dream came true with the election of Donald J. Trump, who then selected the first of three justices to the high court.

Garland by then had gone back to work on the D.C. bench. Then came another nomination from another president, Joe Biden, who wanted Garland to become attorney general. The Senate, now in Democratic hands, approved his nomination and Garland is now standing his post at DOJ.

He is doing, in my view, the kind of stellar job of enforcing the law one would expect of him, given his credentials as a fair-minded jurist.

Yes, I saw the GOP stiffing of his nomination to the SCOTUS as a tragic event. McConnell demonstrated the kind of arrogance I frankly didn’t think was possible.

What’s more, I shudder to think what could happen after the 2022 midterm election and the GOP resumes control of the Senate. What might occur if another vacancy occurs on the SCOTUS, say, in early 2023. Would the Senate stiff the current president as it did the earlier one, citing the same specious reasoning for disallowing a nomination to go forward as prescribed by the U.S. Constitution?

I fear that would be the case.

Meanwhile, AG Merrick Garland is doing his job at Justice with supreme skill. It is just as many of us knew he would do.


Merrick Garland haunts this hearing

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Merrick Garland is very much alive and well but his “ghost” floated throughout the hearing room today as a congressional hearing commenced on an appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee welcomed another federal judge, Amy Coney Barrett, as she began her confirmation hearing to the U.S. Supreme Court. She would take the seat occupied by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September.

Garland’s role in this drama? Well, he once got nominated to the high court by President Barack Obama. Another justice, Antonin Scalia, died in February 2016 while on vacation in Texas. President Obama wanted to nominate a successor. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wasted no time in declaring his intention to block that effort. Why? Because the voters had a right to be heard before a SCOTUS nomination would be considered by the Senate.

We had a presidential election in 2016. Obama couldn’t run again. It turned out that Donald Trump would win the election. So, Trump got to select someone to succeed Scalia; he chose Neil Gorsuch.

The hypocrisy between then and now is stunning in its scope.

We were 10 months away from the previous election when a vacancy occurred. Now, we’re just 22 days before the next election. Don’t Americans have a right to have their voices heard before the Senate considers a nominee to succeed Ginsburg? Of course we do.

Except that Republicans who at the moment hold the majority of Senate seats are pushing full speed with the Barrett hearing.

Most astonishing of all is the comment that Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham made in 2018. He said then that if an opening occurs during Donald Trump’s term as president and the “primary season has begun,” the Senate should hold off until after the election before considering a possible replacement.

Graham said we could hold his words against him. Fine. Many of us are doing that, Mr. Chairman.

Amy Coney Barrett wouldn’t be my choice to join the court. I much prefer a jurist in the Merrick Garland mold: moderate, center-left in philosophical judicial outlook. Garland, though, never got the courtesy of a hearing, let alone a Senate vote, that appears to be in store for Judge Barrett.

It’s all because the Senate GOP majority played politics with the judicial nomination process in 2016 … and is doing so once again right now.


‘People’s voice’ is being ignored

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

U.S. Senate Republicans argued four years ago when President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to join the Supreme Court that the “people need to have a say” in who should join the court.

That was then. These days, Senate Republicans are saying something so very different. The people’s voice? The upcoming presidential election just 40 days from now? Pffftt!

Amy Coney Barrett has been nominated by Donald Trump to join the Supreme Court. Ruth Bader Ginsburg died fewer than 50 days prior to the next presidential election; Antonin Scalia died in February 2016 several months before that year’s election.

We were going to get a new president in 2016, given that Obama couldn’t run for a third term. We well might get a new president this year. Do “the people” this time still deserve to have a say in who joins the high court? Of course we do!

That won’t happen, apparently.

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is set to convene a hearing on Oct. 12. Barrett will sit before the committee and dodge question after question from senators. The committee will vote and likely will recommend she gets confirmed; it will be a partisan vote, with Republicans holding a majority of the committee.

Then the full Senate will vote. The entire body’s vote likely is going to be on a partisan basis as well. Barrett will be confirmed and will take her seat on the court.

What about the people’s voice? What in the name of fairness happened to that fervent call four years ago to give voters a say in who joins the court for the rest of his or her life?

It has been trampled by raw, rank and reprehensible political hypocrisy, led by the hypocrite in chief, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

We are living in a dangerous, perilous time.

Hypocrisy rules!


By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The hypocrisy ringing throughout the halls of the nation’s Capitol Building is becoming the stuff of legend.

Four years ago, Republican U.S. senators said time and time again that no president should be allowed to fill a Supreme Court seat during an election year. They didn’t qualify the assertion. They didn’t stipulate presidents of any particular party.

They said no president, none, should move forward with selecting a justice when we have a presidential election on tap.

You will recall in early 2016 when Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly. President Barack Obama wanted to name a successor. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said “not so fast.” He slammed the brakes on a nomination.

GOP senators stepped up and said the same thing. No president should select someone for a lifetime during an election year.

Recall that Scalia died nearly 10 months before the 2016 presidential election. Now we have Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died just 48 days prior to the next election.

Republican senators are ignoring their own assertion. They now want to rush a nomination forward before the Nov. 3 election.

What happened to the 2016 mantra of “giving the people a voice” in who should sit on the Supreme Court? Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida even went so far as to say he would make that demand when we have a Republican president. Hey, Marco, we have one now … bub! What say you these days about seating someone to succeed Ruth Bader Ginsburg? I know. It’s full steam ahead!

The people still deserve a voice before the Senate acts on Donald Trump’s expected nomination of someone to succeed the great Justice Ginsburg. If the Senate GOP thought it was true in 2016 when Barack Obama sought to fill a post vacated by Justice Scalia’s death, then it should hold to that philosophy now.

Right? Oh wait! The Party of Trump doesn’t believe in ethics, fairness, truth-telling and honor.

Honor RBG’s ‘most fervent wish’

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

So it was stated by the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in a note she dictated to her granddaughter just a few days before her death.

I am saddened beyond measure to hear of Justice Ginsburg’s death. It was not a surprise, given her lengthy bout with cancer. However, her passing now sets up a political battle the likes of which we have seen.

I am having trouble wrapping my noggin around all the ramifications. To wit:

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says Donald Trump will be able to get a Senate vote on the person he nominates to succeed Ginsburg. But wait! He said the opposite in 2016 when Justice Antonin Scalia died. President Obama wouldn’t get a Senate hearing on who selected in an election year. The vacancy was held for more than 400 days. We have 46 days until the next election this time.
  • Does the Senate leader have the chops to hold the GOP caucus together? One Republican senator, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, has said already the process should wait. And what about the handful of GOP senators who are set to lose their re-election bids this fall? Do they vote on a nomination in a lame-duck congressional session? Is it right for them to vote, then leave office only to have the next SCOTUS justice getting a lifetime job?
  • How does McConnell justify the hypocrisy of denying one president the chance to select a justice while fast-tracking another president’s selection?

I have declared my belief in presidential prerogative. I have stated that presidents have the right to nominate their court choices. Were I to stand firmly on that principle, then Donald Trump deserves to nominate a SCOTUS justice just as much as Barack Obama did.

However, I cannot swallow the hypocrisy that Mitch McConnell exhibited in 2016 by denying Merrick Garland a hearing and a vote to succeed Antonin Scalia on the high court. McConnell squandered any moral authority on this issue.

So, I want to echo the wish expressed by Justice Ginsburg as her life slipped away from her.

Let us conduct a presidential election and then swear in the president before proceeding with a nomination battle for the Supreme Court. If the stars align properly, that president will be Joseph Robinette Biden Jr.

Politics intersects with principle

I hate it when this happens, when principle runs headlong into partisan political interests … such as when presidents might be handed an opportunity to make a key appointment.

I refer to the U.S. Supreme Court and to Donald J. Trump.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly in early 2016, creating a vacancy on the high court. President Obama, serving his final full year in office, then nominated Merrick Garland to succeed the brilliant conservative jurist. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell slammed the brakes on that effort, saying that the Senate wouldn’t confirm an appointment from a lame-duck president in an election year.

Many of us — including me — raised holy hell. We argued that presidential prerogative allowed Obama to make that appointment. We argued on the principle that the Constitution granted him the authority to act. I also argued that McConnell was playing a shameful game of politics with this principle. The 2016 election occurred, Trump got elected, Garland’s nomination was tossed aside.

Here we are, four years later. Another Supreme Court justice, liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg, revealed recently she is battling liver cancer. I now am asking myself: What happens if she can no longer serve on the court? Does Donald Trump deserve the same sort of presidential deference many of us in the peanut gallery said was due Barack Obama?

With gritted teeth and a tight jaw, I have to say: yes, he does.

Let me be crystal clear. I do not want Justice Ginsburg to leave the court until well after the November election. There’s a decent chance at this moment that Trump is going to lose to Democratic nominee Joe Biden. It is my fondest political hope that Justice Ginsburg can continue to serve on the court, can continue to write opinions and can be a full partner in the court’s deliberations. It also is my hope that should she decide to retire from the court that she can wait until after President Biden takes his oath of office in January and then is free to nominate someone of his choice.

However, if fate takes the court in another direction, I will be saddened beyond measure at what is likely to transpire as Trump wages war against those in the Senate who will fight to stall any confirmation process until after the voters have their say at the ballot box.

Yes, occasionally politics can be based on high principle. I fear that politics and principle might be pointed in opposite directions in this most volatile election year.

McConnell exhibits stunning lack of self-awareness

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Of all the statements, assertions, pronouncements and declarations I keep hearing while we watch this impeachment drama unfold, I keep circling back to what keeps coming out of the mouth of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The Kentucky Republican keeps hurling “partisan political” accusations at his Democratic colleagues in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. When I hear him accuse House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of acting as a purely partisan politician, I find myself thinking: Dude, do you not remember your own political history? 

Of course he does!

I harken back to the Mother of All Partisan Acts when in early 2016 he declared that President Obama would not be able to select someone to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly that year; Obama sought to nominate Merrick Garland to succeed him; McConnell put the brakes on it, declaring that the president’s nominee would not get a Senate hearing in an election year.

Democrats were rightfully outraged. It was an act of supreme partisanship, just as he has continued to exhibit his partisan bona fides during the run-up to the Senate impeachment trial that has commenced.

Speaking of that … for the Senate majority leader to accuse anyone else of partisan game-playing is akin to getting a lecture on marital fidelity from, oh, you know who.

Mitch McConnell: Partisan hack demonstrates his hypocrisy

There well might be no more demonstrably partisan political hack in the U.S. Senate than the man who runs the place … and who has the gall to accuse politicians on the other side of playing politics.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has blocked a bill that would seek to make our electoral system more secure and to prevent foreign hostile powers from hacking into our system.

Why did he do that? Because he says Senate Democrats have made it too “partisan.” They are “playing politics” with the legislation.

Wow, man!

Hmm. Let’s see how this works. Requiring paper ballots to back up the electronic ballots is “partisan”? Mandating that political candidates report to the FBI any suspected foreign-power interference is “partisan”?

Meanwhile, Donald Trump has stood with the Russians who did attack our election in 2016 and are likely to do so again in 2020. Trump’s partner in the Senate now is standing with him, declaring that Democrats are the partisan hacks.

Let’s flash back for a moment to 2016.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died while vacationing in Texas. The conservative icon’s body barely had gotten cold before McConnell declared that President Obama — serving his final full year in office — would not be allowed to seat a justice to replace the conservative icon, Scalia.

Obama ended up nominating Merrick Garland, an eminently qualified jurist. Garland didn’t get a hearing. McConnell was at his obstructionist worst in blocking Garland’s nomination and in denying President Obama the opportunity to fulfill his constitutional responsibility.

So now the majority leader calls Democrats the partisans? He says Democrats are playing politics with an electoral security bill?

The man’s hypocrisy takes my breath away.

Flag-burning ban … it’s back!

I am both not surprised but still amazed that this issue keeps coming back. Donald J. “Panderer in Chief” Trump says he is “all in” on a proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution to prohibit flag-burning as a form of political protest.

Oh, boy. Here we go. Again!

Trump put a Twitter message out this weekend that said he supports a “strong BAN on burning our American flag. A no brainer.”

He is backing a proposed amendment pushed by Republican U.S. Sens. Steve Daines of Montana and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota.

Where can I possibly begin on this matter? Let me try this gambit.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly already that flag-burning to make a political statement is protected by the First Amendment guarantee of free political speech. Even high court judicial conservatives, such as the late Justice Antonin Scalia, have upheld the principle of keeping the First Amendment unfettered. According to the Washington Post, Scalia once said he’d prefer to jail “every sandal-wearing, scruffy-bearded weirdo who burns the American flag. But I am not king.” He has joined SCOTUS majorities in upholding the action as a form of political speech.

I am one who cherishes what the flag symbolizes, which is the right to make an a** of oneself, which is what flag-burning does to anyone who burns a flag as a form of criticism of government policy. I have maintained for as long as I can remember that such an act does not win converts to a point of view. It only enrages Americans who — such as myself — who have gone to war under that flag and who love their country … even with its warts.

Banning the act of flag-burning doesn’t do a damn thing but please those who somehow equate a piece of cloth with the doctrine it represents. The flag is merely a symbol of something greater, which is individual liberty — which includes the rights of citizens to act stupidly.

But the president of the United States doesn’t see it that way. He chooses to hug the flag to make some kind of goofy showbiz point.

Sen. McConnell: partisan hack supreme

There could be little, if any doubt, about Mitch McConnell’s partisan credentials.

The U.S. Senate majority leader, though, has just removed any possible benefit of the doubt. The man plays pure, raw, partisan politics better (or worse) than anyone else in Washington, D.C.

Consider his answer to this question recently: If a seat on the Supreme Court came open in 2020, the final full year of Donald Trump’s term as president, would he seek to confirm the nominee?

McConnell’s answer: “Oh, I’d fill it.”

Just four years ago, he had the chance to “fill” a seat on the high court upon the sudden and unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia. His response in 2016, the final full year of President Obama’s tenure in the White House, was markedly different from what he said to the crowd in Paducah, Ky.

McConnell said immediately upon Scalia’s death that Obama would not fill the vacancy. McConnell would block any attempt for a Democratic president to replace a conservative justice appointed by a Republican president; in this case, it was President Reagan who nominated Scalia.

Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the SCOTUS. The Senate didn’t give him a hearing. Key Republican senators never even met the fellow. His nomination withered and died. We elected a new president in November 2016 — and it happened to be Donald Trump!

Oh, but now we have a GOP president in office. If a vacancy were to develop on the court, McConnell — also a Republican — would move to fill the vacancy.

Just think that this partisan hack has the gall, the stones, the chutzpah to suggest Democrats are “playing politics.”

This guy, McConnell, plays the political game with the best of ’em.

Sen. McConnell’s thinly disguised contempt for fairness — to my way of thinking — is what gives politics and politicians a bad name.