A GOP Advantage on SCOTUS? Maybe Not.

Countdown Journal: 42 Days To Go

Donald Trump gives himself an “A” for his handling of the coronavirus, which is set to pass the 200,000 death mark, “by far the highest number of any nation.”

Just in time for the fall surge. “Public health experts have long been worried that the end of the summer — as some students returned to school and the weather cooled — would bring a surge in coronavirus cases. That surge appears to have begun.”

Trump yesterday:

Meanwhile: “A $1 billion fund Congress gave the Pentagon in March to build up the country’s supplies of medical equipment has instead been mostly funneled to defense contractors and used for making things such as jet engine parts, body armor and dress uniforms.”

Welcome to the Countdown Journal. There are 42 days to go until Election Day and then 78 days until the inauguration.

There are, of course, more important things to talk about today, but I’m fixated on this new ad from Georgia GOP senator Kelly Loeffler, in which she compares herself to Attila the Hun.

Get it? "Fight China… attack big government…eliminate the liberal scribes."

I suppose it’s supposed to be funny, and it has a certain this-is-so-bad-it’s-a-parody-of-itself vibe. But what’s most striking is the sheer dumbness of the thing. And, by dumb, I mean how-stupid-she-must-think-her-voters-are dumb.

This ad tells you exactly what Loeffler thinks GOP primary voters want in the Trump Era: a pitch that manages to be both dim-witted and crude. She might not be wrong.

As Allahpundit notes:

As much as I’d like to tell you that Georgia Republicans completely see through this “Trumpier than Trump!” charade that Loeffler is pushing at them, it’s actually working for her. A party that’s willing to accept a billionaire New York playboy as a tribune of “real America” turns out to have little difficulty accepting a fatcat Wall Street CEO as the populist choice head to head with Collins. Loeffler has led the last two public polls of Georgia’s “jungle primary” and also led in two polls released over the weekend…

Unfortunately, this doltification of the GOP is not a one-off. At issue is not simply the constant enabling and justifying of the president’s conduct by GOP officials at every level of government, but also the rate at which copycats and clones are emerging.

The same way a hothead coach stirs indiscipline in his players, a fatuous leader becomes a super-spreader of inanity. Examples abound, but here’s one I’ve had in my files for a while from the managing editor of the Trumpy Media Research Center:

This isn’t an argument. It’s a Mad Libs of random memes that now routinely substitutes for cogence. Perhaps because our politics no longer even pretends to try to persuade, why bother with facts, logic, or argumentation when simple bumper sticker bleats will do.

About that GOP advantage. Even as GOP senators line up behind Mitch McConnell, another poll shows strong support for letting the winner of the election pick Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s successor. And the Democratic cash keeps coming in.

A Sept. 18-20 Morning Consult/Politico poll, conducted after Ginsburg’s death on Friday, reveals a more energized response from the left than from the right, at least in the short term. Compared to a week ago, the share of Democratic voters who said the Supreme Court was “very important” in deciding whom to vote for in the November elections jumped 12 percentage points to 60 percent, while the share of Republicans who said the same increased marginally, from 50 percent to 54 percent, during the same time.

As Nate Silver notes:

Lindsey is legit in trouble. A new Morning Consult poll confirms that Graham’s act may be wearing thin in SC.

  • Graham is tied with Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison, 46% to 45%, consistent with polling since July.

  • Graham leads Harrison among white likely voters, 58% to 32%, while Harrison has a 70-point lead among Black voters, 81% to 11%.

Mueller’s Fail: This is probably the most important read of the day. “Mueller’s Team Should Have Done More to Investigate Trump-Russia Links, Top Aide Says.”

There’s lots of good stuff, but this may be the most disturbing:

In one episode in 2017, the Mueller team issued subpoenas to Deutsche Bank for information about Mr. Manafort’s income in Ukraine. Deutsche Bank had also lent large sums to the Trump Organization, and the White House somehow found out about the still-secret subpoenas — though not their focus. The White House demanded to know what investigators were doing, and Mr. Mueller authorized Mr. Zebley to tell the White House that they had not been seeking Mr. Trump’s financial information.

“At that point, any financial investigation of Trump was put on hold,” Mr. Weissmann writes. “That is, we backed down — the issue was simply too incendiary; the risk, too severe.”

The book provides many other examples of concessions large and small. Investigators did not try to question Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka — who had spoken in the lobby to a delegation of Russians who came to Trump Tower in June 2016 to meet with campaign leaders who had been promised that they were offering dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government.

Andrew Weissmann’s book explains how Donald Trump bullied the investigators, brazened his way through the probe, and became convinced that he could get away with anything.

Court packing? David French offers a reasonable compromise here. But I’m already on record: it’s a truly bad idea that would take us to an even worse place. This is what I wrote last year:

By any measure, packing the Supreme Court with an influx of new members through legislation is an attack on a bedrock “norm.” Back in 2017, when the idea was merely a gleam in the eye of a handful of academics, Ilya Somin warned that “the norm against court-packing [is] justified by more than just tradition. Court-packing is a menace to the role of judicial review as a check on the power of political majorities.”

But now some Democrats are on board with the notion, which seems more than a little off-message (if not hypocritical). For the last two years they have expressed legitimate concerns over Trump’s attacks on political, legal, and constitutional norms, and the issue could be especially powerful in 2020.

But, as Ralph Waldo Emerson once observed, “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

At an event at Yale last week, former attorney general Eric Holder was quoted as saying that “given the unfairness, unprecedented obstruction, and disregard of historical precedent by Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans, when Democrats retake the majority they should consider expanding the Supreme Court to restore adherence to previously accepted norms for judicial nominations.”…

As Plato once remarked after an especially trying day in the Agora: Oof.

You can see where this is going; but it’s also worthwhile remembering where the idea came from.

The last Democrat to actively push for packing the court was Franklin D. Roosevelt; and his failure was one of his presidency’s most dramatic defeats.  

After the Supreme Court issued a series of rulings against New Deal legislation, FDR and his team were outraged. His attorney general at the time, Homer Cummings, warned Roosevelt that the justices “mean to destroy us. . . . We will have to find a way to get rid of the present membership of the Supreme Court.”

So on February 5, 1937, fresh off re-election, Roosevelt unveiled his plan to add a new Supreme Court justice any time a sitting justice turned 70 years and 6 months old (up to a maximum of 6 new justices).

He had reason to be cocky. After the 1936 election, Democrats controlled the senate 76-16 and the House 338-88. But despite that overwhelming partisan edge, FDR’s plan died an ignominious death. (Democrats suffered catastrophic losses in the 1938 election, after the court-packing controversy and a weakening economy soured public opinion on the New Deal.)

Roosevelt had tested the limits of partisanship and found that he badly underestimated the strength of norms surrounding the constitution and the courts. It’s also notable that his idea was killed not by Republicans, but by his fellow Democrats.

In March 1937, [the often deplorable] Senator Burton Wheeler (D-Montana) warned against the precedent that FDR’s plan would create.  

Create now a political court to echo the ideas of the Executive and you have created a weapon. A weapon which, in the hands of another President in times of war or other hysteria, could well be an instrument of destruction. A weapon that can cut down those guaranties of liberty written into your great document by the blood of your forefathers and that can extinguish your right of liberty, of speech, of thought, of action, and of religion. A weapon whose use is only dictated by the conscience of the wielder.

More than 80 years later, Democrats should re-read Wheeler’s advice and once again scrap a truly awful idea.

There are now 42 days to go.

Share Morning Shots

Quick Hits

1. A Troll Exposed

This is an amazing story. And the reaction is pretty amazing too.

The managing editor of the prominent conservative website RedState has spent months trashing U.S. officials tasked with combating COVID-19, dubbing White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci a “mask nazi,” and intimating that government officials responsible for the pandemic response should be executed.

But that writer, who goes by the pseudonym “streiff,” isn’t just another political blogger. The Daily Beast has discovered that he actually works in the public affairs shop of the very agency that Fauci leads.

The reaction: sub-optimal.

2. SCOTUS Helps McConnell, Hurts Trump

As usual, a smart take from Josh Kraushaar:

he heated battle over filling the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat means a lot more to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell than it does to President Trump, politically speaking.

The fight over the Supreme Court will have some marginal benefits for Joe Biden and downballot Democrats. Early polling suggests that a clear majority of voters favor the principle that the next president should choose the nominee. The abject Republican hypocrisy of arguing against confirming a Supreme Court justice in 2016 only to abandon that arbitrary principle now when the tables are turned is likely to alienate any remaining nonpartisan voters up for grabs. Even the most qualified, engaging nominee will be seen through a partisan prism, making it harder for a Trump-appointed justice to win majority public support.

A basic rule of politics is that the party that feels more aggrieved over a particular issue will end up holding the political advantage. 

Cheap Shots

1. The Death Cult Comes For Its Own

(H/T) Tom Nichols:

2. The Best Words

Deep Thoughts

1. To Counter China, We Must Strengthen Ties with Europe

Shay Khatiri and Dalibor Rohac in today’s Bulwark:

China does not pose a challenge exclusively to the United States. It poses a threat to the entire free world. As AEI’s Kori Schake argues in her 2017 book Safe Passage, China aspires to remake the world order in its own image: unfree, corrupt, and mercantilist. Preventing its rise to hegemony is therefore in the collective interest of the United States and its European allies—as well as other democracies around the world. If the next administration does not want to see Europe accommodate China because Europeans feel that America is no longer a reliable partner, it ought to make repairing its ties with the old continent its single most important foreign policy priority.