GOP 2016ers All Agree: No Scalia Successor Until Obama Leaves Office!

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The GOP’s presidential contenders had an opportunity at Saturday’s CBS debate to weigh in on what should happen next after the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia. The candidates for the most part urged the GOP Senate to block any appointees put forward by President Obama.

Editors' Blog

What Was That?

I find it hard to know quite what to say about this debate. It was chaotic and disordered. Lots of candidates called each other liars. Donald Trump used variations of the actual word numerous times. Our initial count from the rough transcript has Trump saying "single biggest liar" twice, "this guy lied" twice and "why do you lie" no less than three times. Rubes said Cruz "lies" a handful of times. And that was just the start of it. I don't think there's ever been a presidential debate where so many of the candidates have called each other liars so many times. At some moments the trash talking and chest-puffing and general drama got so intense I thought this might be a fair approximation of West Side Story if you'd written it about two battling country clubs, the plutocrats versus the plutocrat flunkies.

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SC Debate Blogging #2

10:02 PM: Trump: "We are not being treated properly."

10:15 PM: Ben Carson is truly stupid on almost every policy issue.

10:17 PM: If Jeb would have brought this Jeb earlier in the election he might still be in the election.

10:18 PM: What hasn't gotten a lot of discussion in the national political conversation is that Trump is in many ways a natural candidate for South Carolina. He's obviously not an evangelical. But South Carolina has been ravaged by globalization with numerous light industry jobs disappearing in recent decades. The Mexico and China bashing has a ready audience there.

10:24 PM: I think there's a decent argument that Donald Trump does love eminent domain.

10:27 PM: Trump to Cruz: "You are the single biggest liar."

10:28 PM: This is a thing of beauty.

10:29 PM: The Berlin Wall.

10:32 PM: This is certainly the most time the word "liar" has been used, especially in the vocative, in any debate ever.

SC Debate Blogging

9:10 PM: Does Marco Rubio know what a lameduck President is?

9:13 PM: It's genuinely comical to hear Republicans preach constitutional adherence and then insist on having the Senate not fulfill its explicit constitutional responsibilities.

9:15 PM: Cruz: "We're not going to give up the Supreme Court for a generation."

9:20 PM: So Rubio's moment of courage and decision was voting against an authorization of force in a case where he'd been insisting on bombing for months. Got it.

9:29 PM: Dickerson really did a disservice to America but cutting off Trump's attack on Bush's fourth place finish in New Hampshire.

9:32 PM: That's not a good quote for Trump.

9:33 PM: They need to escort everyone off stage but Trump and Bush and just finish this once and for all.

9:36 PM: Trump is going really, really long on the anti-Bush stuff. The thing to remember about South Carolina is that it's a big military and ex-military state. But just as important it's a very blue blood GOP. It's always been big on the Bush 'family'. I think this stuff works for Trump in nationally. But I'm not certain about South Carolina.

9:45 PM: Trump really knows how to just run out the clock.

What Now?

The political and legal implications of Antonin Scalia's death are so far-reaching -- and the speed with which the political dynamic has intruded on the mourning is so breath-taking -- that it truly boggles the mind. Law professor Rick Hasen coolly starts to work through the implications in this post at TPMCafe.

Norms Ain't How They Roll

As I noted in my post below, immediately after hearing of Justice Scalia's death, I had doubts that Republicans could resist the urge from their party's extremists to refuse to vote on a Supreme Court nomination this year. As we've seen from threatened debt defaults, routine government shutdowns and even the cooked up impeachment of a President going on two decades ago, there simply isn't any institutionalist juice left in the GOP to resist yet another norm-violating power grab. And the truth is they've paid no price for the various other examples. Indeed, it is a sign of how far we've come that even mainstream Court watchers like SCOTUSBlog treated it as a given that Senate Republicans would take this course.

Right out of the gate, conservatives were insisting that Republicans not allow President Obama to nominate another Justice to the High Court. And just moments ago, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced that he would not allows such a vote to be held. So, in essence, this debate over whether to keep this seat vacant for likely as long as a year and a half lasted about an hour.

Thoughts on Justice Scalia's Passing

Let us first recognize the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia, a 79 year old man with a large family and almost countless admirers, friends and proteges. I think he had precious few supporters or ideological admirers among our core readers. But this is a man who served on the High Court for almost thirty years and unquestionably, for better or worse, will go down as one of the most influential Justices of the last half century. Indeed that time scope may be too short to capture the breadth of his influence. Very early in his time on the Court, I think in 1988, he gave a talk to a class I was in college. From that experience and what I have heard from many sources over the years, Scalia was as charming and appealing on a personal level as his jurisprudence was retrograde and deplorable to progressives and liberals on an ideological level. Our ideological and partisan commitments should never be so all-encompassing that we cannot step aside from them to recognize realities that transcend them: in this case, that this was a genuinely brilliant man and a patriot.

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A Clarifying Encounter

I cannot help noting the quality of this debate itself - how it was organized, the moderators, the quality of the questions. It was a throwback, but a good one. I do not think it was an accident that this one was organized by PBS or that they managed to bring it to a punctual conclusion. After all, this wasn't a ratings or a ad sales driver for them.

On the candidates, I thought the debate began very well for Clinton and quite shaky for Sanders. He got a very basic question about the size of government, one he would certainly get in a general election and one which I do not think he should shy away from. But he wouldn't touch it. Clinton was as strong and specific as he was hesitating and resistant to addressing specifics.

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Dem Goo-Goo Wisconsin Debate Blogging #5

10:54 PM: Agree with it or not, I think Hillary found or rolled out her new motto when she said "I am not a single issue candidate." That brings together the essence of the argument she's trying to make against Sanders. "But here's the point I want to make tonight. I am not a single-issue candidate and I do not believe we live in a single-issue country. I think that a lot of what we have to overcome to break down the barriers that are holding people back ..."

Dem Goo-Goo Wisconsin Debate Blogging #4

10:23 PM: That Sanders answer was sort of a flashback to the lefty magazines I used to read in high school. Jacobo Arbenz gets no love?

10:25 PM: I think Clinton has the better of Sanders on the Libya question. He's got a good point on what's happening with Libya. But I think he's slicing the distinction a bit fine is on that vote.

10:27 PM: Sander's has a pretty point here on Kissinger. But man, this is a serious time warp on the bombing of Cambodia.

10:29 PM: Why has the Bernie finger wag not become a gif meme yet?

I spoke too soon ...

10:35 PM: Clinton's experience and knowledge on foreign affairs is one of her big selling points to me, though I do have some concerns about her interventionism. But I feel like with answer like that Syria one she realizes okay no one is really going to be able to follow what I'm talking about but I'm just going to show how deep my knowledge is.

10:42 PM: They seem to have applied the non-yahoo filter to Facebook when they got tonight's questions.

10:43 PM: Bernie on foreign policy tonight is bringing back a whole childhood of Pete Seeger and PBS documentaries.

Dem Goo-Goo Wisconsin Debate Blogging #3

10:05 PM: Sanders certainly getting some traction here on the nature of political contribution.

10:11 PM: Okay, I think Hillary got off to a much stronger start than Sanders. The dynamics of this debate are very different. But as time went on I think he did better and everything was more evenly matched. When they came back to financial regulation and Wall Street contributions, that's a very hard piece of territory for her to hold. He's always going to have her on the ropes with that ... As a general matter, when she presses him on specifics of his plans he almost always comes back to what you could either call his fundamental critique of the political economy or his talking points. A key question is whether that works, thematic goals versus addressing policy specifics.

10:16 PM: I will say this again. Just the debate itself, the moderators, quality of the questions, so so much better.

Dem Goo-Goo Wisconsin Debate Blogging #2

9:38 PM: "Hardly anyone believes that they have ..." I find that sort of a startling statement to be treated as simply accepted by everyone. Clearly the issue of race and discrimination has become a higher profile issue in the mainstream political dialog. And by some definitions there is more racialized contention in society. But she seems to be buying into the idea that everything was pretty good on this front before Obama became President. I would say that a more coherent way of looking at this is that Obama's very presidency is in part a product of growing minority populations and rising expectations of equality. I won't say this is a simple question: but the assumption that Obama made race relations worse is fairly offensive, not to say factually inaccurate.

9:43 PM: Clinton is referring to this study on rising mortality among middle aged whites, largely driving by overdose and chronic substance abuse.

9:47 PM: Just as a general matter, this debate - format, questions, lack of derp - is just so much better than any of the other debates on either side. On both sides this cycle, you've had an even greater glitzification of the debates, ratings drivers for the hosting networks.

Dem Goo-Goo Wisconsin Debate Blogging

9:06 PM: Sanders weaves prison and criminal justice reform into the lead in which has heretofore been pretty tightly focused on his economic critique. But again, nothing but coherence.

9:11 PM: This debate has an altogether different feel to it than all the debates this year. Much more old-school and civics-y, sort of the like the ones the League of Women Voters used to put on in the old days.

9:13 PM: I'm sort of curious that Sanders wasn't willing to answer that question - the percentage size of government question. OTOH, the health care program would expand the government by 40%? That sounds too high.

9:17 PM: Admittedly not the most important issue in this campaign, by why have 'akrit' and 'inakrit' not become a thing yet?

9:19 PM: Clinton's getting the better of Sanders here on the health care exchange - in part because he's falling back on generalities and she's hitting points that I think are basically accurate.

9:21 PM: "Secretary Clinton, you're not in the White House yet."

9:25 PM: I have to confess I find the continued pressing of Clinton over losing the women's vote a bit gross. I mean, if she wins the male vote, is Bernie unmanned somehow? I mean, he had a big big win. A huge victory. When you win by 22 points you win basically every demographic. It's almost like shaming at this point.

9:29 PM: Shorter Sanders: If a seventy-something Jewish socialist wins the presidency, it'll be a breakthrough too. And how.

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