The media love nothing better than to pounce on hypocrisy.
Especially when it comes from the Republican side.
Within moments after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, many journalists, not just commentators, were ripping Mitch McConnell and his colleagues for vowing to push through a Trump nominee as her replacement.
I expect hypocrisy from politicians of all stripes, and I’m rarely disappointed. They are very practiced in the art of intellectually justifying whatever it is they want to do in the exercise of raw political power. And if the circumstances change, they just conjure up new talking points that may be totally at odds with what they did before. Journalists care about consistency, and politicians care about getting through the current battle or the current election and worrying about the future some other time.
What’s gotten far less attention, though, is the way that many Democrats have also flip-flopped since what happened in 2016.
First, the Republicans. Nine months before the last election, when Ginsburg’s friend Antonin Scalia died, Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland for the seat. The Senate majority leader, who is remarkably immune to what the elite media says about him, announced that the chamber would not even consider Garland because it was an election year. The next president should pick Scalia’s replacement, McConnell said. He wouldn’t give Garland so much as a hearing.
But with Ginsburg’s death just over six weeks before the election, McConnell said he’d go full steam ahead for President Trump, as he had signaled he would do.
Many Senate Republicans were on record as saying they wanted to follow the 2016 precedent, none more prominently than Lindsey Graham, now the Judiciary Committee chairman. And television has been busy replaying the clips.
During the 2016 battle, the senator said: “I want you to use my words against me. If there's a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said let's let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.”
And in a 2018 interview with Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, Graham said: “I really don't care if an opening comes in the last year of President Trump's term. And the primary process has started. We'll wait for the next election.” He noted that he was on tape.
Graham, who’s in a tight reelection race, now says the way the Democrats treated Brett Kavanaugh changed his mind, but the hearings had already happened before the Atlantic interview.
The press has been laser-focused on Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, who oppose a vote during the election, and keeping the heat on other potential Republican defectors, given that McConnell can only lose one more. Trump says he’ll announce his pick Friday or Saturday, after ceremonies honoring Ginsburg.
Now for the Democrats. Back in 2016, Biden of course backed Obama in insisting that McConnell allow a vote for Merrick Garland.
Now, however, the former vice president says there should be no vote, and the winner of the election--perhaps him--should get to fill the seat.
There are always details--this is literally on the eve of the election, while McConnell says the Senate and White House are now controlled by the same party--to rationalize situational ethics. But the press, by and large, isn’t casting this as Biden doing a 180.
When Harry Reid abolished the filibuster for judicial nominations below the high court level, Republicans went crazy; the media, not so much. Had a Republican majority leader done that, the media criticism would have been intense.
Now some Democrats, and liberal pundits, are urging that if Democrats win power they should pack the court next year, to neutralize the impact of Trump’s newest justice. That didn’t work out so well for FDR, but I’m not seeing much media criticism over that (a stance that Biden has rejected).
In fact, CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin said yesterday that Democrats don’t have the “guts” to add seats to the court because they are “wimps” and “weak.”
Again, I’m all for blowing the whistle on Washington hypocrisy. But the double standard here isn’t limited to political parties.