Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Friday at the age of 87 due to complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer. In the hours after the court announced her death, conservative media began discussing the prospect of President Donald Trump filling her seat.
Ned Ryun, the CEO of the conservative organization American Majority, said in an interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson that he expects and hopes that Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will move to confirm a replacement prior to the upcoming election. “With Trump and McConnell together, and obviously the [Republican] majority in the Senate, this is an opportunity and I say they seize the moment,” Ryun told Carlson. Carlson himself foreshadowed the upcoming conflict over Ginsburg’s seat and called into question NPR’s reporting that Ginsburg had told her granddaughter in the days before her death, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” Carlson seems to have misunderstood the reporting, suggesting that NPR claimed Ginsburg said this literally on her deathbed; he asserted that he will “choose not to believe that she said that, because I don’t think that people on their deathbeds are thinking about who’s president.” He went on to predict, “This will be used as a cudgel by the left.”
Conservative journalists worked to rebut arguments that the Senate should wait until after the election to name a justice. Democrats have pointed to a statement that McConnell made in 2016 when he torpedoed Obama’s Supreme Court nomination of Judge Merrick Garland: “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.” RealClearInvestigations writer Mark Hemingway claimed in a tweet that “The McConnell rule was always no SCOTUS noms in an election year –but only if WH and Senate are controlled by different parties.” Daily Wire reporter Ryan Saavedra retweeted the post and added that “the media is already intentionally lying about Mitch McConnell said in the past.” Federalist senior editor Mollie Hemingway echoed the sentiment during an appearance on Fox News. Fact checkers at the New York Times have previously disputed similar claims made by McConnell himself, who since 2016 has tried to shift his justification for blocking Garland with the different-parties argument. McConnell released a statement on Friday night noting that he intends to hold a vote for Trump’s nominee in the Senate. On Fox News, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz offered one argument for installing a new justice before the election, which Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen praised on Twitter:
The Washington Examiner published an op-ed by Eddie Scarry titled, “McConnell and Trump Need to Fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Seat,” which seemed to allow that the Senate majority leader wasn’t hewing to any “rule” in 2016, nor would he be in 2020:
True, McConnell’s justification in 2016 for blocking then-President Barack Obama’s nominee to the court was that we were in the heat of an election and that the choice should be left up to voters.
It was a naked power grab. There’s no way around it. And it would be this time, too. But let’s not kid ourselves.
However, Scarry wrote that Democrats would be just as power-hungry “if the shoe were on the other foot.”
Rod Dreher, writing in his blog at the American Conservative, seemed somewhat conflicted at the prospect of an immediate Supreme Court confirmation, noting in a post titled “OMG RBG!” that he supports filling the seat before the election but worries that it could hurt the country:
As a conservative and a Christian, I am all in for what McConnell proposes. I have said in this space before that as the country moves left, I believe the federal courts are going to be the last line of defense for religious liberty and the things for which social conservatives care most. The radicalization of the Democratic Party has deepened my conviction on this point.
Thinking about the country, though, I cannot see how doing this before the election serves the common good.
But: do we really have a common good anymore?
So replacing RBG would be a “naked power grab” that wouldn’t serve the common good, and the GOP should do it anyway. OMG, indeed.