Conservatives have long known that the media tends to treat liberals differently than conservatives. But the battle over replacing Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court may test the limits of media bias even by Washington standards. The discovery of a tape of a speech made by Vice President Joe Biden from 1992 is another body blow to the narrative the administration has been trying to sell to the country about how uniquely awful Republican refusals to consider any nominee put forward by President Obama. One would think that Biden’s words, just like those of Senator Chuck Schumer in 2007 or the actions of President Obama in 2006, when he tried to filibuster the nomination of Justice Samuel Alito, would make it impossible for any fair-minded person to listen to Democratic arguments about the GOP. But those who believe the uncovering of the record will shame liberals into standing down on this point don’t understand how deep the hypocrisy of the left runs.
As the New York Times reports, here’s what Biden said:
But in a speech on the Senate floor in June 1992, Mr. Biden, then the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said there should be a different standard for a Supreme Court vacancy “that would occur in the full throes of an election year.” The president should follow the example of “a majority of his predecessors” and delay naming a replacement, Mr. Biden said. If he goes forward before then, the Senate should wait to consider the nomination.
“Some will criticize such a decision and say that it was nothing more than an attempt to save a seat on the court in hopes that a Democrat will be permitted to fill it, but that would not be our intention,” Mr. Biden said at the time. “It would be our pragmatic conclusion that once the political season is underway, and it is, action on a Supreme Court nomination must be put off until after the election campaign is over.
“That is what is fair to the nominee and essential to the process. Otherwise, it seems to me,” he added, “we will be in deep trouble as an institution.”
Whether the fact that it was a theoretical question at the time (since no justice died or resigned in early 1992) or because what he said was pretty reasonable, it’s interesting to note that Biden’s comments didn’t spark any controversy at the time. But like Schumer’s vow to thwart any court nominations from the second President Bush in 2007 or Obama’s actions in trying to prevent a vote on a nominee in 2006, Biden’s comments don’t jibe with the current liberal agenda.
President Obama knows that a Republican-controlled Senate will never allow him to use the Scalia’s death to create a liberal majority on the court that will last for a generation. Yet he intends to exercise his Constitutional prerogative to put forward a nominee if for no other reason than to create a political firestorm that will help his party in a critical election year. The time spent debating a nominee that can’t be confirmed will be as much a waste of the time of Congress as another vote to repeal ObamaCare. But the point of the nomination will be to allow Democrats to brand the GOP as an obstructionist party determined to shut down the government at every opportunity and to unfairly thwart the first African-American president in a way that has never been attempted against a white or Republican commander-in-chief. The latter accusation is nonsense, but it is one black voters seem to be ready to believe. Obama hopes it might be enough to motivate them to turn out for Hillary Clinton in November the same way they did for him in 2008 and 2012.
So far, much of the mainstream liberal media has been playing along with this theme depicting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as playing the same role that Ted Cruz did during the 2013 government shutdown. But can it go on doing so as the archival record of Democratic hypocrisy piles up?
Of course, it can. Just like Biden, who had the chutzpah to claim yesterday that Republicans were “misinterpreting” his speech, or President Obama, who merely smirked and said everybody does it when confronted about his support for preventing a vote on a Republican nominee, don’t expect liberal media outlets to back off on their determination to use this issue to bash Republicans.
As I noted last week, it bears repeating that this is a procedural issue on which neither side has right on their side. Scalia’s untimely passing means that the ideological control of the court is up for grabs, and both sides of the political divide know how high the stakes are in this contest. Since the American people have given us divided government — a Democratic president and a Republican Senate — the result will be a stalemate until the voters have their say in November.
It is all well and good to argue that it would be nice if we could go back to a bygone era when Supreme Court nominees were judged on the basis of their legal qualifications and ethics rather than ideology. But since the vice president was one of the principal midwives of that historic shift when he helped turn the name of a distinguished conservative jurist named Robert Bork into a verb, neither he nor Schumer or Obama are in any position to make such an argument.
The Democrats have no monopoly in hypocrisy since Republicans like McConnell were using the talking points now uttered by Democrats when he was trying to help confirm George W. Bush’s court nominees. But the self-righteous tone of the president and his followers in pursuing this cynical and pointless attempt to change the court plumbs new depths in annals of hypocritical political machinations.
An honest news media would hold them to account and pepper every article or broadcast report about the efforts by Obama, Biden and Schumer to force Republicans to give their nominee a vote with references to their past stands on the issue. But with the chance to help Democrats overturn Scalia’s heroic efforts to defend the Constitution, expecting them to make frequent mention of “Biden rules” or “Schumer rules” about Supreme Court nominations is probably asking too much from liberal journalists.