February 14, 2016
Mitch McConnell's immediate response to the death of Justice Scalia can be explained by The Six Points on The Only Winning Strategy.
The Red Flag - for the Senate Majority Leader to discuss particulars of the succession within hours of Justice Scalia's passing would normally be considered in terribly bad taste. However, Senator McConnell needed to make the first strike in order to reframe the issue (see Lakoff). The Senate will review any President Obama nominee. Defying the Constitution, it's like black stealing the first move in chess away from white, never mind the rules. This tells Republican's the battle plan. Otherwise, some Senators or other prominent Republicans might assume that the plan would only be to oppose any nominee by the President, but of course the President will send a nomination to the Senate for approval. The normal expected debate regarding Senate approval of the nominee is pushed further by McConnell's action to an unexpected and manufactured controversy - whether or not the President has a right to appoint a nominee to the Supreme Court with almost one year left in office, as if that means anything. This new debate has prompted a lot of discussion about the history of prior nominations and whether or not the details of those nominations are comparable, all of which is irrelevant. That discussion distracts from the consideration of current Court cases, which could suffer much longer than a year if there is a protracted nomination battle for the new President and Senate after January 20, 2017.