21 September 2020

NOTE FROM NORM: The President Is The President Until He Is Not

The passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is, like many things in American life, the end of an era.

A tireless and avowed liberal justice, Ginsburg was fierce in her advocacy for women, for minorities and for justice for all.

While she and I may have had differing ideology, neither of us have cared any less passionately about equal justice under the law for all Americans.

She was a brilliant jurist for the 27 years she sat on the nation’s highest court and all Americans owe her a debt of gratitude for her service to the nation.

That she graduated from the same high school that I did – James Madison in Brooklyn – would have undoubtedly had me voting to confirm her appointment despite our ideological differences!

Which is exactly the challenge, and the opportunity, that comes with her unfortunate death.

There was a time when an unabashed liberal like Justice Ginsburg could be confirmed by a 96-3 vote.

She received that vote because her intellect and integrity were valued and appreciated by members on both sides of the political aisle.

The same was true for Anton Scalia, an unabashed conservative who was confirmed by a 98-0 vote because his intellect and integrity, too, were valued and appreciated by members on both sides of the political aisle.

That standard, alas, seems to be a of a bygone era.  Conservative nominees can expect to be ravaged by liberal Senators and vice versa.

There is no question that the timing of Justice Ginsburg’s passing adds an additional dynamic to the nomination and approval process for her replacement.

Democrats are already demanding that no action be taken on her replacement until after the November election.

Yet, here’s the simple truth:  Presidents are elected for four-year terms of office.  There’s not a President in American History who decided to hit the pause button on their Presidency before their allotted time was up.

The same is true, for members of the United States Senate.

There’s not a single member of the United States Senate who would look at their calendar and go, “Oh well, I guess there’s only four months  left of my term I might as well just check out.”

To that end, I have every reason, as should every American, that President Trump will indeed exercise the power bestowed upon his office until the last minute of the last day of his Presidency.

And that will, I presume include the President exercising his prerogative to fill a Supreme Court vacancy.

In these intensely partisan times, where the political divide is so great, the battle over her replacement will be intense.

Truth be told, there is absolutely no way to avoid that battle either today or after the November Election.

There’s also no reason to postpone that battle.

Elections have consequences.

Regardless of whether one likes or dislikes Donald Trump the fact is he was duly elected President of the United States of America.

As such, he will take the power vested in him for his full four years, not three years and a hand full of months, and nominate an individual to fill the seat vacated by Justice Ginsburg’s passing.

As with his previous nominee, I suspect his next nominee will be an outstanding jurist with an exceptional legal mind and likely have a conservative philosophy when it comes to the interpretation of the Constitution and his or her role as a member of the United States Supreme Court.

During my time as a United States Senator my standard for judging candidates focused on intellect, character, and integrity, not their political philosophy.

It would be my hope that many of the colleagues I once served with, as well as those who came after my time in the Senate, would look at whoever President Trump nominates and judge that candidate on those qualities.

I’m not naïve and I know the prospects of that happening are slim indeed.

It will become a hugely partisan battle with little focus on the qualities of the candidate or their ability to the do the job.

It will be, simply put, a political skirmish on a scale we’ve not likely seen before.

Be that as it may be it changes nothing about the reality in front of the country.

Donald J. Trump is President and will be until Noon on the 20th day of January 2021.

In the ensuing 123 days, barely 4 months from now, I suspect he will continue to exercise the full powers of his Presidency.

Including nominating a fully qualified candidate for the Supreme Court of the United States of America.