Letter: The court meets Macbeth
Sally Claasen’s recent letter to the editor rightly highlights Sen. Cory Gardner’s hypocrisy regarding the current U.S. Supreme Court vacancy. She shows Gardener citing Joe Biden, who argued in 1992 that former President Bush should not be allowed to replace Thurgood Marshall during an election year.
It was probably a good idea that Ms. Claasen and Sen. Gardener ignored Biden’s remarks from four years ago — “To leave the seat vacant at this critical moment in American history is a little bit like saying, ‘God forbid something happen to the president and the vice president, we’re not going to fill the presidency for another year and a half.’”
There’s plenty of hypocrisy to go around. Elevating the pronouncements of squabbling politicians — regardless of party affiliation — to the level of precedent seems more the province of dictatorships than of representative republics. It may be useful to take a look at actual precedents that are all but identical to the Ginsburg vacancy.
In all of American history, there have been 29 Supreme Court vacancies during a presidential election year. The president has nominated a replacement every time. On those occasions when the Senate was controlled by the president’s party, the nominee has been confirmed 89% of the time — 17 out of 19 times. When the Senate has been controlled by the opposition party, the nominee has been confirmed only 20% of the time — two out of 10 times.
There is only one relevant precedent: what the Constitution does and does not permit the Senate to do. If today’s partisan demagogues care to review the rhetoric and chest thumping during the precedents cited above, they’ll find it indistinguishable from their own self-righteous posturing in the here and now. Somehow, the nation has always survived the dire warnings of armageddon.
Shakespeare accurately diagnosed the present caterwauling more than 400 years ago: sound and fury signifying nothing.
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