Diary

The Brilliance of Mitch McConnell

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,” Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dictated in a statement to her granddaughter Clara Spera.

That Justice Ginsburg hated, despised, loathed, abominated Donald Trump is well known:

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told NPR’s Nina Totenberg that earlier comments she made about presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump were “incautious.”

In a New York Times interview last weekend, Ginsburg caused a stir by expressing her opinion on a presidential candidate — a line justices usually don’t cross.

Ginsburg said that she “can’t imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president.” She also joked that her husband, who died in 2010, would have said it was “time for us to move to New Zealand.”

Trump responded harshly on Twitter, calling for Ginsburg to resign, the Washington Post said her remarks were “inappropriate,” and the New York Times editorial page sided with Trump.

Ginsburg expressed regret Thursday morning and in a statement and interview with CNN. On Thursday afternoon, Ginsburg further explained her actions in an wide-ranging interview with Totenberg.

Asked why she felt it was time to say she was sorry about the remarks, Ginsburg said:

“Because it was incautious. I said something I should not have said and I made a statement that reads, ‘On reflection, my recent remarks in response to press inquiries were ill-advised. I regret making them. Judges should avoid commenting on a candidate for public office. In the future I will be more circumspect.’ And that’s exactly how I feel about this whole business.”

Note that Justice Ginsburg didn’t apologize for what she said, but only that it was inappropriate for her to have said it in public.

After the unexpected passing of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, on March 16, 2016 President Barack Hussein Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill the Supreme Court vacancy. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had previously stated, on February 13, 2016, the day Justice Scalia passed away, that the Senate would not consider any nomination made by President Obama, and that a Supreme Court nomination should be left to the next President.

Blocking the confirmation of Judge Garland was a serious gamble. Though unclear in February, by the time Mr Obama made his nomination it was clear that Donald Trump would win the Republican presidential nomination and Hillary Clinton that of the Democrats. Every poll indicated that Mrs Clinton would not just defeat Mr Trump, but utterly stomp him into the mud.

Mr McConnell held firm on his statement, and no Senate action of any kind was ever taken on Mr Garland’s nomination. If Mrs Ginsburg had made even the slightest consideration of retirement following the end of the Court’s session in 2016, Mr McConnell’s stand on the Garland nomination would have dissuaded her. And, of course, she expected her replacement to have been nominated by President Hillary Clinton.

Oops!

For the past 3½ years, liberals have been praying for Justice Ginsburg to survive through the entirety of President Trump’s term. A Facebook page, Pray for RBG, with the blurb “Prayers for 83 year old Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to stay healthy through the trainwreck Trump administration,” was set up, and the Twitter hashtag #PrayforRBG has long been around, to which Dan Rather, among others, added.

Mr McConnell’s long-odds bet, that Mr Trump would win the 2016 presidential nomination, paid off. Rather than Mr Garland, Justice Scalia was eventually replaced by Neil Gorsuch, nominated by President Trump. The Democrats waxed wroth, and filibustered Mr Gorsuch’s nomination, at which point Mr McConnell used the so-called “nuclear option” to allow cloture of filibusters of Supreme Court nominees with 51 votes. In rather delicious irony, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) had first used the nuclear option to end Republican filibusters of President Obama’s judicial nominees in November of 2013, but did not include Supreme Court nominations in the rule. Senator McConnell, then the Minority leader, told Senator Reid that he might come to regret that, and sooner than he expected; the GOP won control of the Senate in the next election.

Now Mrs Ginsburg has gone to her eternal reward, and President Trump get to nominate a replacement for her. Mr Obama had seen the death of Justice Scalia as an opportunity to create a 5 to 4 liberal majority on the Supreme Court. Mr McConnell stymied him on that, and now Mr Trump has the opportunity to create a 6 to 3 conservative majority. The repeated hospitalizations of Justice Ginsburg should certainly have gotten the White House to prepare for this nomination, and it should come very quickly, to give Senator McConnell the time needed to push the nomination through.
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