Don Roberts is absolutely right to criticize President Barack Obama for skipping Justice Antonin Scalia’s funeral (“Shame on you, Mr. President,” Feb. 27). Basic decency, as well as political smarts, should have dictated he attend, and it is sad that he did not show either in this case.

But Roberts is wrong about the president’s constitutional obligations to nominate the next justice. No president “forfeits the right” to uphold a constitutional duty, unless he has resigned from office. He can — and he must — nominate a successor to Scalia. To do otherwise is to violate the Constitution.

Roberts is wrong, too, about Scalia’s interpretation of the Constitution. Scalia was famously an advocate of “original intent.” In establishing the Supreme Court with lifetime tenure, the Founders intended to insulate the judiciary as much as possible from what they perceived as the dangers of democracy. They feared the disruptive effects of democracy, and they wrote the Constitution to be inherently conservative, i.e., not to swing wildly back and forth after each election. That is part of the genius of the Constitution. The Senate at the time was not even elected directly — senators were appointed by state legislatures to add another layer of protection from the passions of voters. The founders would be horrified by the idea that voters should “have a say” in picking a Supreme Court justice.

As the hypocritical Democrats are learning now, we should not let momentary political anger lead us to abandon constitutional principles. Obama has not only the right but the duty to nominate the next justice; the Senate has a similar duty to hold hearings and vote on that nominee in a timely manner. The American people deserve no less.

Chris Myers Asch


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