It’s a little flabbergasting that John Boehner would admit this story, but this typifies is why he was the Wile E. Coyote to Obama’s Roadrunner, and that his time as Speaker of the House couldn’t end soon enough after four years of similar buffoonery:
Twenty years ago, while serving as chairman of the U.S. House Republican Conference, I tried to persuade Scalia to become Senator Bob Dole’s running mate on the 1996 GOP presidential ticket.
And out of a sense of duty, he listened.
I share the recollection of this ill-fated recruitment effort now because I believe it helps to shed light on the person Antonin Scalia really and truly was.
After four years of Bill and Hillary Clinton, I believed, the country was hungry for leadership grounded in principle. Dole had served the country admirably, not just in the United States Senate, but in World War II, where he’d been gravely injured.
The center of Dole’s appeal was the opportunity to return gravitas and adult leadership to the White House. But to turn it into electoral success, nearly everyone agreed, Dole needed some rocket fuel. He needed a running mate who would act as a force multiplier for the argument that was the centerpiece of Dole’s campaign, while also bringing an element of buzz and excitement that had been missing, particularly among Reagan-Gingrich conservatives yearning for a champion.
Scalia was a brilliant man and a great defender of the American system as it was founded and meant to be maintained, but it was a goofball move to recruit him for vice president.
As well-intentioned as it might sound to put a brilliant mind like Scalia in the the executive branch, Boehner was clearly unaware of the fact that asking a Supreme Court Justice like Scalia to become Vice President is like asking him to accept a “promotion” from the all-star team of the major leagues to sitting the bench in the AAA league (because cabinet secretaries have more power than a Vice President) of a sport he doesn’t even play.
What’s more is what if Bob Dole won? What is the liklihood a squish like him would replace Scalia with an equally fiercely conservative justice? Maybe, the GOP was in the majority back then, but if Democrats filibustered they probably would’ve just rolled over, like they do now.
Boehner should chalk this up to one of those “that sounded a lot better in my head” moments.