Arizona Sen. John McCain cultivates an image of being a maverick who is straightforward and honest with people. That’s why he called his old presidential campaign bus “the Straight Talk Express,” and now he’s running for reelection for his Senate seat.
But in a Monday night debate with his Democratic challenger Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, he revealed that he’s been anything but straight about why he refuses to consider Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. Instead of the Straight Talk Express, he’s been taking his constituents for a ride on the “Duplicity Express.”
For the past eight months, McCain has justified his obstruction by claiming that the American people should have a voice in who fills the vacancy, via the 2016 presidential election. He seems not to care that he was in fact muzzling the American people, who made a choice in 2012 to give Barack Obama that responsibility for another four years. He claimed that “[t]his issue is not about any single nominee – it’s about the integrity of the Court.”
But at the debate, McCain revealed that his obstruction has everything to do with the identity of the nominee, and that he might even work to prevent the Court vacancy from being filled by the next president, should it be Hillary Clinton:
We only have eight Supreme Court justices, and I would much rather have eight Supreme Court justices than a [ninth] justice who is liberal …”
Whoa, what about his claim that this wasn’t about any particular nominee, but about “giving people a voice” so the next president can make the selection?
Imagine if, when McCain himself ran for president in 2008, he had stated that certain presidential powers and obligations last only three years rather than four:
- In the third presidential debate in 2008, McCain would have answered a question about the Supreme Court by saying “I will find the best people in the world — in the United States of America who have a history of strict adherence to the Constitution. And not legislating from the bench. Except during my last year in office.”
- In McCain’s concession speech, he would have noted that the American people had “decid[ed] that Sen. Obama and my old friend, Sen. Joe Biden, should have the honor of leading us for the next four years, except when it comes to the Supreme Court, where the American people have decided Obama and Biden should lead us for only three years.”
Of course he didn’t say this. That’s because he recognized then—and surely recognizes now—that the mandate given by the American people is for four years.
No, his refusal to consider Merrick Garland has everything to do with his dislike for the president who nominated him. As he stated in 2008, McCain wants a justice like Scalia or Clarence Thomas. He wants a justice who would:
- Gut the Voting Rights Act and make voter suppression far easier (Shelby County)
- Give corporations the right to make unlimited expenditures and contributions to influence elections (Citizens United)
- Let corporations cite their religious beliefs as an excuse to deprive women of birth control (Hobby Lobby)
- Refuse to recognize the equality and basic humanity of gays and lesbians (Obergefell, Windsor, Lawrence)
- Find ways to rule in favor of the wealthy and powerful, regardless of what the law actually requires (too many cases to list)
Since Merrick Garland has given no indication he would be a conservative’s dream, Senator McCain is intent on preventing the Senate from even considering his nomination. And if we have a President Hillary Clinton for the next four years, McCain has already said he prefers an 8-member Court to one with a nominee who he disagrees with.
How’s that for a principled, “straight talking” senator? Refuse to move on the president’s nomination to the Supreme Court because you say the next president should decide, but what you really mean is don’t confirm this nominee because you’d rather have another Scalia on the bench.