President Obama remembered late Justice Antonin Scalia on Saturday in a brief speech that was both personal and extremely political.
The president began by honoring Scalia himself and his legacy, calling him a “larger-than-life presence on the bench” and a “brilliant legal mind.” Obama said Scalia had “influenced a generation … and profoundly shaped the legal landscape.” He avoided, like other Democrats before him, saying that the two often disagreed, preferring to highlight how Scalia “dedicated his life to the cornerstone of our democracy, the rule of law.”
Obama sprinkled his praise of Scalia with a bit of personal history, noting the special friendship he shared with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and adding that the late justice was both “an avid hunter and an opera lover.”
But then, Obama left no doubt that he has no plans to sit with his arms folded until he steps down and has every intention of trying to nominate someone to take Scalia’s seat. The president spoke after several key Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said it should be up to the next president to fill the empty seat in the highest court of the land.
“I plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibilities to nominate a successor in due time,” Obama said. “There will be plenty of time for me to do so and for the Senate to fulfill its responsibility to give that person a fair hearing and a timely vote. These are responsibilities that I take seriously as should everyone.”
The president seemed to chastise those who suggested he shouldn’t even try to appoint anyone, noting that would not honor Scalia’s legacy. These “responsibilities” are “bigger than any one party—they’re about our democracy; they’re about the institution to which Justice Scalia dedicated his professional life.”