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What Was That?

I find it hard to know quite what to say about this debate. It was chaotic and disordered. Lots of candidates called each other liars. Donald Trump used variations of the actual word numerous times. Our initial count from the rough transcript has Trump saying "single biggest liar" twice, "this guy lied" twice and "why do you lie" no less than three times. Rubes said Cruz "lies" a handful of times. And that was just the start of it. I don't think there's ever been a presidential debate where so many of the candidates have called each other liars so many times. At some moments the trash talking and chest-puffing and general drama got so intense I thought this might be a fair approximation of West Side Story if you'd written it about two battling country clubs, the plutocrats versus the plutocrat flunkies.

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SC Debate Blogging #2

10:02 PM: Trump: "We are not being treated properly."

10:15 PM: Ben Carson is truly stupid on almost every policy issue.

10:17 PM: If Jeb would have brought this Jeb earlier in the election he might still be in the election.

10:18 PM: What hasn't gotten a lot of discussion in the national political conversation is that Trump is in many ways a natural candidate for South Carolina. He's obviously not an evangelical. But South Carolina has been ravaged by globalization with numerous light industry jobs disappearing in recent decades. The Mexico and China bashing has a ready audience there.

10:24 PM: I think there's a decent argument that Donald Trump does love eminent domain.

10:27 PM: Trump to Cruz: "You are the single biggest liar."

10:28 PM: This is a thing of beauty.

10:29 PM: The Berlin Wall.

10:32 PM: This is certainly the most time the word "liar" has been used, especially in the vocative, in any debate ever.

SC Debate Blogging

9:10 PM: Does Marco Rubio know what a lameduck President is?

9:13 PM: It's genuinely comical to hear Republicans preach constitutional adherence and then insist on having the Senate not fulfill its explicit constitutional responsibilities.

9:15 PM: Cruz: "We're not going to give up the Supreme Court for a generation."

9:20 PM: So Rubio's moment of courage and decision was voting against an authorization of force in a case where he'd been insisting on bombing for months. Got it.

9:29 PM: Dickerson really did a disservice to America but cutting off Trump's attack on Bush's fourth place finish in New Hampshire.

9:32 PM: That's not a good quote for Trump.

9:33 PM: They need to escort everyone off stage but Trump and Bush and just finish this once and for all.

9:36 PM: Trump is going really, really long on the anti-Bush stuff. The thing to remember about South Carolina is that it's a big military and ex-military state. But just as important it's a very blue blood GOP. It's always been big on the Bush 'family'. I think this stuff works for Trump in nationally. But I'm not certain about South Carolina.

9:45 PM: Trump really knows how to just run out the clock.

What Now?

The political and legal implications of Antonin Scalia's death are so far-reaching -- and the speed with which the political dynamic has intruded on the mourning is so breath-taking -- that it truly boggles the mind. Law professor Rick Hasen coolly starts to work through the implications in this post at TPMCafe.

Norms Ain't How They Roll

As I noted in my post below, immediately after hearing of Justice Scalia's death, I had doubts that Republicans could resist the urge from their party's extremists to refuse to vote on a Supreme Court nomination this year. As we've seen from threatened debt defaults, routine government shutdowns and even the cooked up impeachment of a President going on two decades ago, there simply isn't any institutionalist juice left in the GOP to resist yet another norm-violating power grab. And the truth is they've paid no price for the various other examples. Indeed, it is a sign of how far we've come that even mainstream Court watchers like SCOTUSBlog treated it as a given that Senate Republicans would take this course.

Right out of the gate, conservatives were insisting that Republicans not allow President Obama to nominate another Justice to the High Court. And just moments ago, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced that he would not allows such a vote to be held. So, in essence, this debate over whether to keep this seat vacant for likely as long as a year and a half lasted about an hour.

Thoughts on Justice Scalia's Passing

Let us first recognize the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia, a 79 year old man with a large family and almost countless admirers, friends and proteges. I think he had precious few supporters or ideological admirers among our core readers. But this is a man who served on the High Court for almost thirty years and unquestionably, for better or worse, will go down as one of the most influential Justices of the last half century. Indeed that time scope may be too short to capture the breadth of his influence. Very early in his time on the Court, I think in 1988, he gave a talk to a class I was in college. From that experience and what I have heard from many sources over the years, Scalia was as charming and appealing on a personal level as his jurisprudence was retrograde and deplorable to progressives and liberals on an ideological level. Our ideological and partisan commitments should never be so all-encompassing that we cannot step aside from them to recognize realities that transcend them: in this case, that this was a genuinely brilliant man and a patriot.

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A Clarifying Encounter

I cannot help noting the quality of this debate itself - how it was organized, the moderators, the quality of the questions. It was a throwback, but a good one. I do not think it was an accident that this one was organized by PBS or that they managed to bring it to a punctual conclusion. After all, this wasn't a ratings or a ad sales driver for them.

On the candidates, I thought the debate began very well for Clinton and quite shaky for Sanders. He got a very basic question about the size of government, one he would certainly get in a general election and one which I do not think he should shy away from. But he wouldn't touch it. Clinton was as strong and specific as he was hesitating and resistant to addressing specifics.

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