Obama vows to do his job shock-horror

This sample of the New York Times reporting on the Supreme Court vacancy is quite bizarre.

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — The death of Justice Antonin Scalia on Saturday set off an immediate partisan battle over a vacancy that could reshape the Supreme Court for years to come, as President Obama vowed to nominate a successor and Senate Republicans called on him to let the next president fill the seat.

Why say Obama “vowed”? Why couldn’t he just have said? Of course he’s going to nominate a successor; the remarkable thing would be if he’d said he’s not going to. It’s his job, and he’s going to do his job. Why is that in any way remarkable? Why is his saying so framed as “vowing”?

Speaking to reporters from Rancho Mirage, where he is golfing this weekend with friends, Mr. Obama paid tribute to Justice Scalia, who died earlier in the day in Texas. He described him as “one of the towering legal figures of our time,” a jurist who dedicated his life “to the cornerstone of our democracy: the rule of law.”

But Mr. Obama also said, “I plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibilities to nominate a successor in due time.”

What do they mean “but”? Why put a “but” there? There’s no contradiction or swerve in direction. Scalia is gone and that means there’s a vacancy and such a vacancy is supposed to be filled so that the Court can do its job. Why on earth make it sound as if Obama is being combative by doing exactly what he’s required to do?

“There will be plenty of time for me to do so and for the Senate to fulfill its responsibility to give that person a fair hearing and a timely vote,” the president said. “These are responsibilities that I take seriously, as should everyone. They are bigger than any one party, they are about our democracy.”

The president’s tone left little doubt that he intends to use the full power of his office to try to leave a final imprint on the Supreme Court. His choice has the potential to be more decisive for the court’s makeup than his previous two — Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — given Justice Scalia’s longtime status as the court’s most outspoken conservative.

What does that mean? Scalia hasn’t left some kind of ghostly presence that will somehow make his replacement more decisive than Sotomayor and Kagan. Maybe what they were trying to say was that Scalia’s departure makes a bigger difference because of his status as the honcho reactionary, but that’s a different thing.

It seems as if they can’t think about it except in terms of a horse race. It’s warped and misleading and uninformative.

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