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Susan Collins is shocked to learn that politics are part of SCOTUS nominations
Biden's pledge to put a Black woman on the court is good and normal, despite what Collins says.
On the campaign trail in February 2020, Joe Biden said that if he was elected president, and assuming a seat opened up on the Supreme Court, he would be “honored” to nominate a Black woman for the first time in US history. This was a good and healthy thing — Black voters are a key part of the Democratic coalition, and a Black woman has never been nominated to SCOTUS before, so it’s way overdue.
Fast forward two years, and in the wake of Justice Stephen Breyer announcing his retirement last week, Republicans and right-wing media have tried to make a big deal out of now-President Biden following through on his promise, denigrating it as “affirmative racial discrimination” and “divisive.”
These criticisms really shouldn’t be taken seriously. Case in point was Susan Collins’s painful effort to hit Biden for allegedly politicizing the nomination process during her Sunday appearance on ABC’s This Week.
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After Collins accused Biden of adding to the “perception that the court is a political institution like Congress when it is not supposed to be,” host George Stephanopoulos pointed out that Presidents Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump both similarly announced their intentions to nominate women to the court. Collins responded with some unconvincing and factually incorrect hair-splitting.
“Actually, this isn't exactly the same,” she said. “I’ve looked at what was done in both cases. And what President Biden did was as a candidate, make this pledge. And that helped politicize the entire nomination process.”
Stephanopoulos didn’t press the point, but as many people pointed out, Collins’s understanding of history isn’t right. Reagan in fact announced his intention to nominate a woman to the court on the campaign trail, just as Biden did with respect to putting a Black woman on the court.
Here’s the clip of Reagan promising to nominate a woman in October 1980.
And while Trump may not have said as much publicly, the fact is that he had a specific demographic in mind when talking about potential SCOTUS nominees during the 2016 race. Trump released a shortlist of 11 potential judges, all of them white (and eight of them men). It goes without saying that Republicans had no objections to that. And when RBG died in September 2020, Trump made clear he would replace her with a woman.
Even if it was the case that Biden’s pledge to nominate a Black woman was unusual, the reality is that Supreme Court nominations are inherently political. Senators and presidents often talk about them in terms of who’s most qualified for the job, but the fact is that there are always many qualified candidates, and what distinguishes them are their backgrounds and ideological commitments. Some Republicans, for instance, would never think of voting to confirm a pro-choice SCOTUS nominee, even if that person was eminently qualified for the role. And when Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell denied a hearing President Obama’s nominee to replace him, Merrick Garland, saying voters and not “a lame-duck president” should decide who replaced him — an inherently political statement.
Ultimately, all of this criticism of Biden for following through on his campaign promise rests on a racially tinged assumption that a Black woman wouldn’t be just as qualified for the court as someone from another demographic group. But a look at Biden’s shortlist disproves that notion. Plenty of Black women are more than capable of sitting on the court, and it’s far past time that one of them have an opportunity to do so.
"If they have achieved the level of success in practice of law and jurisprudence, they've done it against great odds,” Sen. Dick Durbin said of Biden’s shortlist on Sunday, referring to Biden’s shortlist. “Usually the first of anything in the US turns out to be extraordinary.”
Fox News ignores damaging stories
While Fox News and Fox Business have spent a lot of time trying to gin up a silly racial panic over Biden’s SCOTUS process, they completely ignored the remarkable statement Trump released on Sunday expressing regret that Mike Pence didn’t follow through with a coup-like scheme to overturn the 2020 election. (I wrote about the broader significance of this statement on Monday.)
Searches of Fox News and Fox Business transcripts indicate that “Trump statement” and “overturn the election” weren’t mentioned a single time on either network on Monday. Instead, Eric Trump was invited on Sean Hannity’s show to boast about how awesome his dad’s crowd size was for his rally on Saturday.
Fox News has also completely ignored the death of one of its major heroes from last fall, Robert LaMay, the former Washington state trooper who had 15 minutes of fame on the network when he quit his job to protest the state’s vaccine mandate, only to die from Covid last week.
LaMay was praised by Fox News hosts across a number of shows in October and given a hero’s treatment while being interviewed by Laura Ingraham.
But as Media Matters details, Fox has not bothered updating its viewers about LaMay’s passing, which may have been prevented had he gotten vaccinated. He leaves behind a wife and four kids.
Trump was more directly involved in efforts to overturn the election than previously known
I was finalizing this newsletter when the New York Times broke news that Trump was more involved in the effort to seize voting machines after the 2020 election than was previously known.
From the piece, which I encourage everyone to read:
Six weeks after Election Day, with his hold on power slipping, President Donald J. Trump directed his lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to make a remarkable call. Mr. Trump wanted him to ask the Department of Homeland Security if it could legally take control of voting machines in key swing states, three people familiar with the matter said.
[ … ]
The new accounts show that Mr. Trump was more directly involved than previously known in exploring proposals to use his national security agencies to seize voting machines as he grasped unsuccessfully for evidence of fraud that would help him reverse his defeat in the 2020 election, according to people familiar with the episodes.
That’s it for today!
I’ll be back with more tomorrow.