Sunday, 14 February 2016

An excuse to re-watch the West Wing

Another Republican debate - something like the 524th of this primary campaign - but in order to liven things up a bit, the organisers brought in an audience from a WWE wrestling event. And this audience didn’t like Donald Trump one bit. To be fair, Trump decided now would be a good time to expand on all the policies he supports which are at odds with Republican mainstream. In particular, he lambasted George W Bush, blaming him (and by extension Jeb!) for the September 11th attacks, and the Iraq war. It’s worth remembering that W still has a 67% favourability rating among current republican voters and the decision to go to war is even more popular.

Trump also defended Planned Parenthood, the organisation which helps women in the USA to obtain abortions (among many other services). And he chose to raise his own policy on what is known in the USA as eminent domain - compulsory purchase here in the UK. The eminent domain debate is so esoteric and hard to fathom that in seven seasons even the West Wing never made it a story line. Although Ted Cruz did make it into an attack ad.

But apparently it matters to some Republican voters who don’t support Trump’s line. So Trump’s decision to raise the issue is either going to bore or alienate voters.

What is the outcome of all this Trumpery? He’s so far ahead in the polls in South Carolina that it is unlikely to stop him winning there. Perhaps it was just Trump being Trump?


The other big news is the death of the most Conservative Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia. This gives President Obama a chance to tilt the balance of the Supreme Court towards the liberal side for the first time in a while - crucial when there are likely to be cases on abortion coming up soon.

But with just under a year left in office, the question is whether Obama will be able to get his nomination through. In theory he should be ok. The longest period from nomination to confirmation is 180 days or so. But Obama will need to pick someone who can be confirmed, consult widely and vet the choice before they are put forward. If he cannot get the support of 60 or more senators (and that means at least 14 republicans) then he will be at the mercy of a filibuster as conservatives seek to hold the appointment over to the next president. So he won’t get to nominate another liberal inclined judge as he did with his first two appointments (which were to replace liberal justices in any case and so did not upset the balance of the court).

One interesting idea doing the rounds is that if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency then she should appoint Obama to the court.

The West Wing did cover the issue of appointing a Supreme Court justice a couple of times, so I'm off to re-watch those episodes.

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