December 07, 2004
Why Rational Democrats Could Support Justice Scalia for Chief Justice
The Washington Post reports here that new Democratic minority leader Harry Reid has said he could support Justice Scalia as a potential replacement for Chief Justice Rehnquist (if and when the Chief retires) because Scalia is "one smart guy." (Reid opposes Justice Thomas for Chief on grounds he has been an "embarassment" on the Court.) The support for Scalia (tempered by a view that he must overcome "ethics" objections) has reportedly angered some Democrats.
In looking at the disputes over judicial nominations, I have always believed that the actions of both Democrats and Republicans have been pretty rational, given political constraints and ideals. Thus, I have written how it makes sense for Democrats to selectively filibuster a small group of judicial candidates who may be painted (fairly or unfairly) as ideological extremists, and it makes sense for Republicans to threaten (but not follow through on) threats to end the filibuster rules through a majority vote (the so-called "nuclear" option). I think a focus on rational behavior helps to explain Reid's stance on Scalia as well.
Why would it be rational to support Scalia?