Joe Biden Takes a Dark Turn on Blowing Up the Court

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Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden addresses reporters in Las Vegas, Nev., October 9, 2020 (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

It gets worse. For weeks, Joe Biden has refused to answer whether he intends to blow up the United States Supreme Court on the preposterous grounds that, if he does, journalists will write about it. Now, he adds that voters “don’t deserve” to know his position.  This transmutes an untenable position into a downright nefarious one.

Biden’s defenders have been trying to draw some equivalency between the threat of his “packing” (read: destroying) the Supreme Court and the Republicans’ push to appoint Amy Coney Barrett to replace Justice Ginsburg. In and of itself, this is ridiculous: The Republicans are in control of the White House and the Senate, and, in acting now, are using a process that has been in place since 1789 and echoing a norm that has obtained throughout American history. But the equivalence also fails on its own terms, in that neither President Trump nor any of the 53 Republican senators are keeping any secrets about their plans. Trump has been open about his nomination from the start; so have the 51 Republicans who intend to vote yes; so has Susan Collins, who intends to vote no; and so has Lisa Murkowski, who opposes the process but says that she may vote yes if it comes to the floor. There is no parity here. One party is going about the business of government with the branches that it presently controls; the other party is threatening to smash those branches up.

Biden’s stance essentially inverts the way the American system is supposed to work. Going into the election, the Democrats’ position is that it would be unseemly for candidates for our elected branches to answer questions about what they will do, but that it is imperative that candidates for the judicial branch be expected to say ahead of time how they intend to rule in major cases. Why is Biden, who knows better, indulging this? I suspect it is because he knows full well that what is being proposed by his party is monstrous and so hopes to sidestep it entirely. Cue the tape:

Biden’s argument in this clip is unequivocal. He agrees that the idea of “packing the Supreme Court” is an outrageous “power grab.” He suggests that it takes people of courage to stand up to their own party when it begins to flirt with such outrageous propositions. And, most important of all, it is clear from this clip that there is nothing “different” about this debate in 2020 than there was back in 2005. By his own terms, Biden agrees with FDR that the Court was “thwarting” the government’s agenda. By his own terms, he is aware that that government had won in a landslide. And yet, despite this, he understands that the planned remedy was disgraceful. FDR, Biden says, was “corrupted by power in my view,” and his “court packing” plan served as a good reminder of how “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” What was necessary — what Biden explicitly wanted “entered into the record” — was that “statesman” stand against “political exigency.”

A good example of such a statesman, Biden said, was . . . well, Joe Biden.

Where is that man today?

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