Courting Extremism is a weekly feature on conservative responses to the Supreme Court vacancy.
In the weeks since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, Republicans have relied on falsehoods and fabricated claims in an attempt to justify their refusal to consider any person President Obama nominates to take Scalia’s place on the Supreme Court. It comes as no surprise, then, that as soon as President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland for the seat, conservatives immediately turned to ridiculous and dishonest arguments to oppose his nomination.
Here are the five most ridiculous conservative pro-obstruction arguments of the week:
5) Blockbuster Scandal!
Conservatives think they have finally found a damning piece of opposition research on Garland: He once dared to appear at a book party for a book about Justice Harry Blackmun and, according to one report, “described the release of Blackmun’s papers to be a great gift to the country.”
Why is it scandalous to attend a celebration of a book about a justice who served on the Supreme Court for over two decades? Because Blackmun authored the Roe v. Wade decision, of course!
Garland’s attendance at the book party has rattled Americans United for Life and the Judicial Action Group, which favor the Senate GOP leadership’s Supreme Court blockade.
Here is how the anti-choice outlet LifeNews put it: “When it comes to President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, one of his inspirations is the author of Roe v. Wade, the high court case that ushered in an era of 58 million abortions.”
The group Live Action even said that by hailing the release of Blackmun’s papers, Garland “has lavished praised” on Blackmun, “author of the legally indefensible Roe v. Wade.” Live Action’s Calvin Freiburger also stated that Republicans should oppose Garland simply because Obama nominated him, saying that the president “a judicial activist at heart and is wildly committed to abortion-on-demand at any time for any reason as a ‘constitutional right.’”
Just to recap, according to the Right Wing, it is now a scandal that a federal judge praised the release of a Supreme Court justice’s papers, and it is controversial that a president fulfilled his constitutional duties to appoint jurists to the bench.
4) Giving Away The Game
Senate Republicans know they can’t come right out and admit that they oppose Garland’s nomination because he isn’t the kind of right-wing extremist they think they would get from a President Trump or Cruz. And they can’t come out against his impeccable qualifications either.
As such, all they are left with is the historically inaccurate talking point that the Senate has a “tradition” of refusing to confirm Supreme Court nominees in the final year of a president’s term. Since anyone who performs a simple Google search about past confirmation votes can easily debunk the GOP’s claim, it is hard to see how much longer they can trot this one out.
Obama’s nomination of Garland, who is widely respected on both sides of the aisle, caused at least some Republicans to throw out the bogus “tradition” argument and simply admit that their Supreme Court blockade is just about politics.
If the “tradition” argument was actually based in fact and Republicans truly believed that March 2016 is too late in the president’s term for him to appoint a Supreme Court justice, then why do they think that November and December of this year would be just fine?
The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board similarly floated the idea of a lame-duck confirmation vote “if Mrs. Clinton wins the election” just one month after demanding that Senate Republicans “refuse to consider any nominee this year” and wait for the next president to nominate a new justice.
Former GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson also confessed to the political nature of the GOP’s stance, telling one radio host that the Senate should move to confirm Garland only if “Hillary won” because “otherwise we’re going to get somebody who’s really left-wing who’s going to be much, much worse than anything that [Garland] would likely do.”
3) Gun Grabber!
Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly joined gun groups like the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America in criticizing Garland’s nomination, saying this week that Garland “voted” to “keep guns away from private citizens” in Washington, D.C. “That vote will disqualify him among Republicans,” he said, referring to Garland's supposed “advocacy position that guns have to be kept away.”
O’Reilly’s colleague at Fox News, Bret Baier, also alleged that Garland “opposed Justice Scalia’s take on the Second Amendment in the Heller case.”
Except Garland never voted on anything close to that.
O’Reilly and Baier were referring to the Heller case, which challenged a District of Columbia law barring residents from owning handguns. When it reached the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, a three-judge panel found that the ban was unconstitutional. Garland simply voted to have the case, which had national implications, reheard by the full court, which often happens in important cases.
It was not a vote for or against the constitutionality of the district’s gun regulation, but rather simply a vote to have the case heard in front of all the judges on the court. And far from being an outlier, he voted the same way as other judges on the bench including Judge A. Raymond Randolph, whom Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times once called “one of the most outspoken and agenda-driven conservatives on the entire federal bench.”
It seems conservatives like O’Reilly and Baier are either making things up or simply don’t understand how the justice system works.
2) Garland Is ‘A Slow, Stealth, Radical Liberal’
Conservative radio host Michael Savage has his own reasons for opposing Garland.
Savage took issue with commentators who described Garland as a “moderate liberal,” claiming this week that “there’s no such thing as a moderate liberal” because “liberalism itself is a radical philosophy whose aim is to slowly or rapidly erode or destroy the structural pillars of a traditional society.”
“No he’s not a moderate at all,” Savage said. “He is a slow, stealth, radical liberal like the rest of them.”
Leave it to the conspiracy theorists at WorldNetDaily to issue this strange attack on Garland.
WND reporter Jack Cashill urged Republicans to grill Garland on his ties to the supposed “cover-ups” behind the TWA Flight 800 disaster and the Oklahoma City bombing, even demanding that Republicans ask Hillary Clinton to testify at confirmation hearings.
While his argument is rooted in conspiracy theories, at least Cashill is calling for the Judiciary Committee to have a hearing on Garland’s nomination, something many Republicans refuse to do.