Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg lived an extraordinary American life and leaves it with glowing admiration from even those who disagreed with her. That’s all any of us can hope for.
It is an unseemly but by now commonplace sign of our times that, even though she passed away just as Rosh Hashanah had begun, the politics of a now vacant seat Supreme Court seat could not be put on hold for a day, or even a few hours. On the other hand, Justice Ginsburg herself fanned the political flames. In her last days, she dictated a statement, made public after her death, expressing fervent desire that she “not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
Since Supreme Court justices usually choose their words with care, we have to assume this is a wish not only that the seat remain unfilled until after January 20, but that a new president be elected in the interim. It is understandable that Democrats are already exploiting the emotional power of a liberal giant’s dying wish. Yet, while we honor Justice Ginsburg’s remarkable life, we owe her no more deference on the timing of her replacement than on the outcome of the November election.
The timing of her replacement, instead, is strictly a matter of political calculation.
On this, I will say what I always find myself saying when a vacancy on the High Court opens: It is ridiculous for leading senators, administration officials, influential partisans, and pundits to enunciate the high-minded principles and precedents that supposedly control the propriety and timing of a nomination.