These Old Photos Of Merrick Garland Prove That He's Been Preparing For This Moment From A Young Age
President Obama has named federal judge Merrick Garland to the vacant seat Supreme Court, and as expected, Senate Republicans are refusing to even give him a hearing. But they should! In addition to the fact that it's the Senate's job to give hearings to Supreme Court nominees, old high school photos of Merrick Garland suggest that he'd hold up perfectly fine under the spotlight.
The photos, published by the Chicago Tribune and elsewhere, give some insight into what Garland was like as a student at Niles West High School in the late 1960s. And it's pretty clear that Garland was, to put it very mildly, an highly motivated student. In addition to being president of the Student Council, he was also a member of the National Honor Society, the Political Forum Club and the German Club. He served as a School Board Representative and a delegate to the National Student Council, performed in several plays, won a Harvard Alumni Book Award and was a National Merit semifinalist.
To call that an impressive resume is an understatement. Most people don't rack up that many accomplishments throughout their entire lives, let alone before they graduate high school. And while none of this has any bearings on Garland's qualifications to serve on the highest court of the land, it does suggest that he would do just fine under the public grilling of a Senate confirmation hearing.
That is, if the Republicans were willing to give him a hearing. Shortly after Obama announced Garland's nomination, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that he wouldn't be holding any hearings on Garland's nomination. The ostensible reason is that it's less than a year until the next presidential election, and McConnell believes that this election should play a role in determining the next Supreme Court justice. The real reason is that Republicans pathologically despise Obama and don't want another liberal on the Supreme Court.
The outcome is the same either way — Garland doesn't get a hearing. But this could easily backfire on Republicans: Garland is a very moderate justice, and so if the GOP rejects even him, that will give him — or Hillary Clinton — cover to appoint an aggressively liberal justice later on down the line. The speech almost writes itself: "We tried to compromise with Republicans, but they made it clear that they'd reject any candidate we proposed, so we're moving forward with who we believe is the most qualified justice in the field."
Some liberals are irritated that Obama nominated a centrist judge when he could have nominated a liberal, but from a PR standpoint, Garland was a smart pick. If Republicans are going to outright reject anybody he nominates, regardless of ideology, he might as well force them to reject an eminently qualified centrist. That way, it becomes plainly obvious that the GOP's actions are motivated not by precedent, as McConnell falsely claims, but by base partisanship and the desire to screw over Obama one last time before he leaves office. And to many moderate swing voters, that won't make the GOP look like a very trustworthy party in November.