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Press: Notorious RBG vs Notorious GOP

Press: Notorious RBG vs Notorious GOP
© Greg Nash

If you’re anywhere in the Washington area, do yourself a favor: go down to the plaza in front of the Supreme Court. You’ll be blown away, like I was, by the huge (mask-wearing) crowd, the sea of flowers, the candles, the messages scrawled in chalk on the sidewalk, the wall of handmade signs — all a tribute to Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgFauci says he was 'absolutely not' surprised Trump got coronavirus after Rose Garden event Push to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw Biden owes us an answer on court-packing MORE.

Veteran court-watchers have never seen anything like it. No Supreme Court justice has ever stirred such an outpouring of public affection. It’s a tribute to Ginsburg’s eloquent, passionate voice on the court for the last 27 years, which lately earned her national folk hero status as “Notorious RBG.”

Ginsburg laughed at that moniker, knowing the inside joke behind it. She was “notorious” only in the sense of being “widely known” for her relentless defense of civil liberties, especially her trailblazing work for women’s rights. She was “notorious” for being determined, principled, a person of great grace, dignity and character.

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What a contrast to the cave-dwelling Republican senators across the street, who are “notorious” in the original sense of the word, “widely and unfavorably known,” for their lack of dignity, lack of character, lack of principle — and monumental hypocrisy.

Republican or Democrat, the best compliment you can give any elected official is “You can take him or her at their word.” That’s not true of the vast majority of Republican senators today, starting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPush to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw Schumer labels McConnell's scheduled coronavirus stimulus vote as 'a stunt' Pelosi gives White House 48-hour deadline for coronavirus stimulus deal MORE (R-Ky.). Their word means nothing. That’s been true for a long time, but never more so than in their frenzy to ram through a replacement for Justice Ginsburg.

We all remember. Within hours after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016, McConnell unilaterally announced a new rule: that no new justice should be confirmed during a president’s last year in office. It was based, McConnell said, on principle: “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice.”

Republican senators, eager to block President Obama’s nominee, Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandPush to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw Biden keeps both sides guessing on court packing Biden town hall questioner worked as speechwriter in Obama administration: report MORE, rushed to embrace McConnell’s rule. Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzConservatives seize on New York Post story to push Section 230 reform Changing suburbs threaten GOP hold on Texas Hillicon Valley: Trump refuses to condemn QAnon | Twitter revises its policy, lets users share disputed article | Google sees foreign cyber threats MORE (R-Texas): “There is a long tradition that you don’t do this in an election year.” Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOwners of meatpacker JBS to pay 0M fine over foreign bribery charges Questions raised about conflicts of interest around Biden son-in-law America needs an industrial policy — now more than ever MORE (R-Fla.): “I don’t think we should be moving on a nominee in the last year of this president’s term — I would say that if it was a Republican president.” Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerPush to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw Democratic super PAC pulls remaining ads from Colorado Senate race Exclusive: Poll shows Affordable Care Act challenge a liability for McConnell at home MORE (R-Colo.): “The president who is elected in November should be the one who makes this decision.” And, most famously, Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamPush to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw RNC chairwoman: Republicans should realize distancing themselves from Trump 'is hurting themselves in the long run' Latest Mnuchin-Pelosi call produces 'encouraging news on testing' for stimulus package MORE (R-S.C.): “I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2020 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.”

Well, here we are. If it was wrong for Obama to fill a Supreme Court vacancy in 2016, it’s wrong for Trump to do so in 2020. Period. Any Republican who argues otherwise is a total hypocrite. But that doesn’t matter to most Republican senators. That was then, this is now. Suddenly, the same rule no longer applies. They’ve thrown principle out the window by repudiating their pious promises of 2016 and plowing ahead with a vote to replace Ginsburg on the court as soon as possible.

There’s a better, nonpartisan, more democratic answer: Wait until Nov. 3. If Trump wins, Republicans schedule a vote. If Biden wins, Trump’s nominee is withdrawn and Biden appoints. That’s the only decent way to proceed. But, of course, that assumes there’s any decency left among Republican senators.

Press is host of “The Bill Press Pod.” He is author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”