Supreme Court Wars: The Democrats Strike Back Sort Of
Sunday on "Meet the Press," Chuck Todd threw in the towel with a resounding "No mas!" on behalf of the seldom effective but always civil efforts to oppose Donald Trump's twisted Mirror Universe presidency.
The Supreme Court: Mr. Trump is about to shape the court for a generation by choosing a possible tie-breaking conservative justice and he's already filled the lower courts with like-minded conservatives.
Republican party: The president's approval rating among Republicans is around 90%. Elected Republicans fear to criticize him and the party has become a cult of personality. His.
Fake News: How about the term fake news? Mr. Trump has turned that phrase, which initially referred to the phony Russian-generated designed to support his campaign in 2016, into an applause line now to discredit responsible reporting showcasing his misdeeds.
Credibility: How about credibility? If reporters faithfully fact-check the president's serial misstatements they risk being called biased. If they don't, the misstatements gain traction. Either way, the president wins.
I have to agree with Todd that it's been a tough week for the left: The charismatic Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's upset victory Tuesday night inspired us, but the very next day Supreme Court swing vote Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement. Now a former reality TV star turned liberal hope dasher has the opportunity to reshape the court such that everything on Ocasio-Cortez's crazy socialist nightmare wish list and perhaps even her very own suffrage will likely be dismissed in an inevitable 5-4 ruling.
Things were so bleak Democrats temporarily called off their attacks on the national security threat Maxine Waters poses and rallied together to beg Republicans to act in a manner contrary to all previous experience with them. Charlie Brown learned from his mistakes more quickly.
Laughably, Democrats thought it would actually matter to start referring to some imaginary "McConnell Standard" regarding the nomination of Supreme Court justices during an election year. This was a reference to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's unprecedented obstruction of then-President Barack Obama's high court pick Merrick Garland.
Seriously, what's wrong with these people? There are no "standards" related to theft, and McConnell, aided and abetted by his Republican colleagues, outright stole a Supreme Court seat from Obama. Democrats should've spent the past two years hammering the GOP as a pack of thieves every day on the Senate floor rather than now choosing the curious tactic of normalizing "justice-jacking." If someone steals your car, you'd look foolish going to them a couple years later and claiming they set some "standard" by which if a car is left unlocked overnight, it's officially up for grabs. What the Republicans did to Garland was wrong, and it's absurd to believe they would accept similar treatment when, unlike Democrats, they have a well-established "non-chump" track record.
McConnell is a busy man, so he was clearly annoyed that he had to waste time reminding Minority Leader Chuck Schumer that the GOP is neither "consistent" nor honorable. He didn't even bother waiting until after laundry day to deliver some disingenuous "this is different from that" doublespeak.
You know, if women are about to lose their reproductive freedom, I think they deserve to hear about it from someone who isn't dressed like they're on their way to the fried chicken social at a Louisville, Kentucky, country club.
However, McConnell's brazen hypocrisy isn't shocking to me. What is shocking is Democrats not realizing that this was all a set up from the word "go." Justice Antonin Scalia's departure from the court was sudden and unplanned, like most deaths not orchestrated by Hillary Clinton, but the timing of Kennedy's retirement was carefully coordinated. The New York Times published an article on Thursday that made the Democrats going on about the "McConnell Standard" look like all-day fool-flavored suckers.
President Trump singled him out for praise even while attacking other members of the Supreme Court. The White House nominated people close to him to important judicial posts. And members of the Trump family forged personal connections.
Their goal was to assure Justice Anthony M. Kennedy that his judicial legacy would be in good hands should he step down at the end of the court's term this week, as he was rumored to be considering. Allies of the White House were more blunt, warning the 81-year-old justice that time was of the essence. There was no telling, they said, what would happen if Democrats gained control of the Senate after the November elections and had the power to block the president's choice as his successor.
Democrats wasted days pushing the argument that the Senate should wait to confirm until after the midterms, when the whole point of Kennedy's retirement at this precise moment was so that Trump could replace him before the midterms. There's been a little talk here and there about a potential blue wave. The GOP already lost a Senate seat in Alabama. Of course Trump and the GOP would try to get Kennedy to retire and rush through a replacement while they had a tenuous but certain majority. Why were Democrats behaving as if Kennedy's retirement was a surprise to everyone? It's like G.I. Joe ringing up Cobra to ask them if they've noticed that the weather's been hinky when they should just automatically assume that Cobra has access to a weather dominator.
The Times article is a Maggie Haberman special, so we're served a heaping helping of gullibility with a side order of magic beans.
There were no direct efforts to pressure or lobby Justice Kennedy to announce his resignation on Wednesday, and it was hardly the first time a president had done his best to create a court opening.
This is a bold declaration from the Gray Senile Lady that is contradicted a whole sentence later.
But in subtle and not so subtle ways, the White House waged a quiet campaign to ensure that Mr. Trump had a second opportunity in his administration's first 18 months to fulfill one of his most important campaign promises to his conservative followers — that he would change the complexion and direction of the Supreme Court.
Wouldn't "not so subtle ways" count as "direct efforts to pressure or lobby," and when has Trump ever been "subtle" or "quiet"? He invited former FBI Director James Comey over for a creepy private dinner where he outright demanded "loyalty" like some paranoid mob boss. The article even details Trump's "bromance" with Kennedy, whose son, Justin, worked closely with Trump when he was global head of real estate capital markets at Deutsche Bank.
During Mr. Kennedy's tenure, Deutsche Bank became Mr. Trump's most important lender, dispensing well over $1 billion in loans to him for the renovation and construction of skyscrapers in New York and Chicago at a time other mainstream banks were wary of doing business with him because of his troubled business history.
So is that "subtle" or "not so subtle"? Oh well. Sen. Cory Booker at least didn't try to appeal to some one-time-only "McConnell Standard" and instead made the not-unreasonable point that Trump shouldn't pick Supreme Court justices when he's the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation, which has already resulted in indictments of people close to the president -- including his former campaign chair and national security adviser.
The Democrats, however, have no leverage to prevent Trump's Court pick from receiving a kissy-face hearing and party-line confirmation. This is why they're holding out a ridiculous hope that Republican Sen. Susan Collins will do something almost admirable.
You know you're getting screwed when Republicans like Collins keep presenting Trump's word as a verifiable source for anything. I believe Trump probably won't ask about Roe v. Wade because any extended legal discussion would just bore him.
Fortunately for Collins, Trump also doesn't have to ask about Roe because the Federalist Society has already screened his list of potential nominees for him. It's like how mob bosses never directly ask cops if they're dirty, but it's sort of taken for granted once they're in the back room of the restaurant with them sharing a family style entree of veal marsala. Also, Collins has already voted to confirm a justice who would likely overturn Roe v. Wade, but she swears on a stack of "Art of the Deal"s that Gorsuch won't do this. (Sure, he's into "precedent" except for all the times he's not.)
Democrats have a bad habit of looking to Republicans to help them when the stakes are at their highest, while Republicans never do. It's like the entire heist in Ocean's 8 relying on the mark just handing over the money because our "heroes" asked nicely. Collins isn't going to risk being primaried down the road when she can hide behind plausible deniability with her confirmation vote today. She's already pulled the “banana in the tailpipe" on Democrats before under similar circumstances.
What is the Democrats' end game anyway? Even if they delay confirmation hearings until after the midterms (and they can't) and if, by some miracle, they win back the Senate, are they prepared to block Trump's picks until his (we hope) defeat in 2020? That's what they'll need to do if they want to truly defend Roe v. Wade and abortion rights. Do the "civil-minded" Dems have it in them to "go to the mattresses" on this? I fear that's probably just a rhetorical question.
Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle.