I’ve known Merrick Garland for over forty years. We were classmates in both college and law school. Even as undergraduates, his peers – myself included – knew that he was one of the great minds of our generation.
He showed the maturity and temperament in his late teens and early 20s to be a Supreme Court Justice.
From his earliest days, he displayed probity, good judgment and was somebody you instinctively trusted to make moral, real and fair decisions.
And that’s just what he’s been doing throughout his long, esteemed career.
Republicans need not worry that he’s an ideological Democrat. He’s not a political man, just a jurist of the highest quality.
I’m clearly not the only one who feels this way. In the past, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch has sung Garland’s praises. When Bill Clinton resubmitted Garland as a nominee to the to the United States Court of Appeals in 1996 – he was confirmed with a bipartisan vote of 76-23 in 1997 – Hatch commented “Merrick B. Garland is highly qualified to sit on the D.C. circuit. His intelligence and his scholarship cannot be questioned…I know him personally, I know of his integrity, I know of his legal ability, I know of his honesty, I know of his acumen, and he belongs on the court” and when Garland was being considered for a SCOTUS vacancy in 2010 Hatch predicted he could be “confirmed virtually unanimously.”
Then-Senator Strom Thurman offered “I have no reservations about Mr. Garland's qualifications or character to serve in this capacity…Moreover, I have no doubt that Mr. Garland is a man of character and integrity" in 1996.
Thirty-two Republican senators backed Garland then. Today, only seven have agreed to meet with him thus far.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has argued that it should be up to the next president to nominate a replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia. No matter what is being said, there is precedent to nominate a justice in an election year.
What’s more, it’s very clear that President Obama went to special lengths to find a nominee that has displayed middle of the road judgment. Yes, Garland has often sided with the Environmental Protection Agency and has been accused of not being too friendly to Second Amendment rights, a key argument against him from conservatives. But he is also the man who supervised the investigations into the Unabomber and the Oklahoma City and Atlanta Olympic bombings. And then there are all his pro-police rulings over the last 20 years as well as ruling to deny Guantanamo detainees judicial review, which greatly angered liberals.
A record like that shows that Garland is a jurist, not a partisan.
As is too often the case, the GOP isn’t thinking far enough ahead on this matter. There are absolutely no assurances that they will take back the White House in the fall. Indeed, Hillary Clinton is ahead in general election polling and if she does win there’s no reason to think she’d re-select the more moderate Garland instead of going for a more ideological candidate.
It follows that the Senate has the opportunity to make sure Merrick Garland is a Supreme Court Justice before they are faced with a more liberal nominee or, frankly, someone not nearly as qualified, well respected and fair.
The Constitutional Responsibility Project, headed by many former Obama campaign officials including Stephanie Cutter, was formed to get Garland elected. They know how to mobilize, fundraise and get things done.
The GOP risks looking – and being – even more obstructionist than they have been in the past if they won’t even offer Garland an up and down vote.
If they stick to this position, the Republicans lose and so does America.
Douglas E. Schoen has served as a pollster for President Bill Clinton. He has more than 30 years experience as a pollster and political consultant. He is also a Fox News contributor and co-host of "Fox News Insiders" Sundays on Fox News Channel at 7 pm ET. He is the author of 13 books. His latest is "Putin's Master Plan" (Encounter Books, September 27, 2016). Follow Doug on Twitter @DouglasESchoen.