George Washington set the standard for nation's presidents

Posted 2/17/16

Despite the colloquialization of the holiday to Presidents Day, today officially remains Washington’s Birthday. Thanks to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, however, the day we honor the father of his country and first president will never actually …

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George Washington set the standard for nation's presidents

Posted

Despite the colloquialization of the holiday to Presidents Day, today officially remains Washington’s Birthday. Thanks to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, however, the day we honor the father of his country and first president will never actually fall on his birthday, Feb. 22.

Perhaps, as a result, the significance of today is likely no more than a footnote on your calendar. But there was a time when Americans stopped everything to honor our first president. There were parades and bunting and, rather than just another Monday off, there was an importance to it all.

Like many others of his time, Washington risked his life, his fortune and his sacred honor to embark on the noble crusade conceived in liberty that formed this great nation. First in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he led revolutionary armies against an unstoppable tyrant — and won. Victorious, he was unanimously handed the reins of power. And then, when he was done, he gave them back.

While not a great orator or philosopher, like many of his contemporaries, Washington perhaps projected a greater asset: character. He declined the trappings of a king, consenting to the downright common title of “Mr. President” over more regal monikers offered him.

Having served two terms, he peacefully handed the reins of power to his successor and retired to private life. This peaceful transfer of power and brief, voluntary tenure was revolutionary in its humility, and served as an example for future presidents. Our present-day leaders would do well to reject their authoritarian and imperialistic designs and, instead, emulate this modesty and respect for the limited nature of our government.

— The Orange County Register

After Scalia, an opportunity to replace partisan predictability with true deliberation

The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia presents President Barack Obama with a rare opportunity to shape the high court’s direction for years, if not decades, to come. Our hope is that he fights the temptation to shift the court’s balance markedly leftward and, instead, selects a nominee who plays his or her politics straight down the middle.

Scalia’s death should neither be cause for rejoicing among liberals nor undue angst among conservatives. Some Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, want the president to await the results of the November presidential elections and cede his nominating authority to his successor. That notion is not just unrealistic, it’s irresponsible.

The nation cannot afford to have Scalia’s seat go unfilled until the next president is inaugurated a year from now, plus how many additional months that would transpire for the nominee to be vetted and confirmed. Besides, it’s the sitting president’s prerogative to make the nomination, and this newspaper would defend that right regardless of whether a Democrat or Republican sat in the White House.

Scalia was unquestionably a gifted constitutional scholar. He was acerbic and outspoken. His biting dissents too often devolved into personal attacks on his colleagues. His demeanor was grating but tolerable. Our problem was with his predictable politics.

Scalia could always be relied upon to disregard even the most persuasive and logical arguments if he thought the outcome would strengthen the liberal side.

His conservative bent suggested that he was not weighing the merits of the arguments before the court, but rather whether his vote would advance or detract from his personal conservative causes.

That should never be the judiciary’s role, whether it’s a municipal court judge assessing the fairness of a traffic ticket or a Supreme Court justice ruling on major issues such as abortion rights, immigration or the executive branch’s authority to restrict power-plant carbon dioxide emissions.

Scalia’s vote was always predictable. His conservative colleague, Justice Anthony Kennedy, has proven far less reliable. He could swing either way, as he did in last year’s landmark ruling on same-sex marriage rights.

This newspaper represents just one tiny voice among many in this debate. But we want Obama to consider the Kennedy model of jurisprudence. His style might seem too conservative for Democrats salivating at the opportunity to redirect the high court sharply to the left. Such a nominee would yield angry criticism from conservatives who want Scalia’s hard-line conservatism to survive.

That’s why the Kennedy model strikes the right balance. It’s worth noting he was nominated and confirmed in 1988 during President Ronald Reagan’s final year in office. McConnell backed him and raised no objections suggesting that the decision be left to Reagan’s successor.

That’s as clear an affirmation as Obama needs to forge ahead.

— The St. Louis Post Dispatch