Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

On court, Obama again tries to meet GOP halfway; again, the GOP spurns him

So the "pinata" now has a name: Judge Merrick Garland, nominated by President Obama to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Garland also has a history, a judicial record and a biography. He was valedictorian at Harvard, graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law, clerked at the Supreme Court, worked as a federal prosecutor and has served for 19 years on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. And by all accounts that I can find, Garland is as centrist, well-respected, moderate and conciliatory a nominee as Obama could have possibly offered.

Don't take my word for it; let's ask Sen. Orrin Hatch, a longtime member and former chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee:

"The president told me several times he’s going to name a moderate, but I don’t believe him," Hatch told Newsmax last week. "He could easily name Merrick Garland, who is a fine man. But he probably won’t do that because this appointment is about the election. So I’m pretty sure he’ll name someone the [liberal Democratic base] wants.”

Six years ago, Hatch even lobbied publicly for Garland's appointment to fill the Supreme Court seat later taken by Elena Kagan. "I have no doubts that Garland would get a lot of votes,” Hatch said at the time. “And I will do my best to help him get them."

The president, in short, has gone out of his way to name somebody whom the Republican-led Senate would find palatable. I suspect that in the next few days we'll see a lot of prominent conservative legal experts speak out in defense of Garland.

So will the Senate now agree to compromise in return? Will it perform its constitutional duty to advise and consent, rather than obstruct and block?

Sen. Mike Lee, Hatch's fellow Utahan and also a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was just asked on Fox News whether the panel will at least give Garland a hearing.

His answer?


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, asked by CNN whether he would even agree to meet with Garland, gave the same answer: No.

Let the pinata bashing begin.



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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.