Since the announcement Friday of the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, liberal journalists have been seething over the idea that the sitting President of the United States would actually nominate her replacement, and that the current U.S. Senate would then actually vote on this nomination — as if everyone performing their assigned Constitutional tasks were somehow a scandal.
During Friday night’s coverage, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of being “rankly hypocritical in his approach to a Supreme Court vacancy with a Republican president in office versus a Democratic President,” while over on CNN, chief political analyst Gloria Borger issued a call to action: “The American public is going to have to weigh in and say, ‘Wait a minute, this isn’t right. This isn’t fair.’”
While journalists loudly criticize Republicans as hypocrites, a trip through the Media Research Center’s archives shows the liberal media are also exhibiting more than their fair share of hypocrisy. Four years ago, when McConnell would not permit a Senate vote on a liberal replacement to conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, many journalists made precisely the opposite arguments that they are making today.
Even as liberal interest groups salivated at the idea of shifting the Court to the left, many in the media insisted it was necessary for the President and the Senate to act right away. “Article Two of the Constitution makes clear the President nominates, the Senate advises and consents. It doesn’t say, ‘except not in an election year,’” NBC’s Savannah Guthrie lectured then-GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush on Today back on February 15, 2016, less than 48 hours after Scalia’s death was announced.
“In fact, it would be rare for the Senate to turn the President down in an election year,” CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley proclaimed that night, adding: “In the 20th century, the Senate voted on seven Supreme Court nominees during election years, and approved all but one.”
“Seventeen presidents, including five in the 20th century, successfully put justices on the Court during an election year,” ABC’s Terry Moran echoed on March 13, three days before Obama’s selection of federal judge Merrick Garland.
Once Garland was announced, the idea that the Senate might not act was cast by the media as a personal affront to Obama. “Do you think people look at this as another one of those boots in the face to the President?” then-MSNBC host Chris Matthews asked on Hardball, March 16.
One of his guests, longtime Washington Post Supreme Court reporter Ruth Marcus, by then a columnist, branded the move as “Republican obstructionism,” adding “I think it’s outrageous.”
“I thought the American people decided to put President Obama in the White House, and that the Constitution says now the President decides what name to send to them, and they decide whether to vote yes or no,” MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell argued on The Last Word that night.
On the Today show the next morning, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell fretted about “a critical seat on the Supreme Court, for now held hostage to presidential campaign politics.” Over on CNN’s New Day, co-host Chris Cuomo said refusing to act on Garland’s nomination was “all about politics of the ugly variety.”
On MSNBC that night (March 17, 2016), Esquire writer Charles Pierce (correctly) suggested Obama’s right to name a new justice extended until his last day in office: “The people decided in 2012, who was going to nominate Supreme Court Justices between January of 2013 and January of 2017.”
Two pundits — one liberal, one conservative — found common ground that Friday night (March 18, 2016) on the idea that Obama’s authority extended until his term ended. “What they want to say is, he’s got a three-year term for his second term,” liberal columnist Mark Shields groused.
“I agree with Mark philosophically. I mean, you’re elected for four years, and you get to nominate for four years,” conservative David Brooks concurred moments later.
Four years ago, the media’s chief complaint was that the Senate was choosing inaction instead of approving Obama’s choice. “These people were elected and they’re paid by the United States Treasury to do their job. And now, they’re saying, ‘we’re not going to do our job,’” ABC’s Matthew Dowd complained on This Week prior to Garland’s selection. “They should do their job and vote it up or down.”
“Refusing to hear a holding on the nominee takes the GOP’s congressional dysfunction to new lows,” MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes complained on March 16, 2016.
Now, President Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell’s Senate are doing exactly what the media insisted they do four years ago — and flip-flopping journalists are criticizing them for it.