Donald's Supreme Irony

In Trumpland, it's biased to point out bias.

In response to Justice Sotomayor pointing out that the conservative wing of the Supreme Court has been giving preferential treatment to the Trump regime, Donald took to Twitter to demand that she and Justice Ginsburg recuse themselves from all cases involving him and his interests.

Meanwhile, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas is actively leading a loyalty-based purge of the federal service.

And in about as clear a case of the "Rules are for Democrats" principle as one could hope to find, Oliver Willis reminds us that the right got out the pitchforks and torches when President Obama dared to even comment on a contentious and widely-discussed Supreme Court decision:

The rule as we were told at the time by the GOP was that it's improper and a violation of the separation of powers for a sitting president to so much as comment on a ruling. Here we have a man occupying that role trying to dictate the conduct of the judges in order to make sure that the bench is packed insurmountably in his favor when cases involving his tax returns and his agenda come before them.

Where I think this really illustrates the modus operandi of the modern-day Republican Party isn't in the hypocritical contrast with their stated beliefs during the era of President Obama, though. We don't actually have to cast our gaze back in time at all. Just the exchange between Justice Sotomayor and Donald is enough: to the King in Orange and his surrogates, her pointing out evidence of bias in his favor is itself evidence of bias against him.

As usual, Donald is merely the funhouse mirror reflection of the GOP here: enlarged and distorted, but recognizably the same figure. The GOP have been working to tilt all the playing fields in their favor (electoral maps, news media, social media) by redrawing lines, working the refs, and accusing everyone around them of bias whenever they don't get their way, and anyone who works to counter this or even points it out is accused of being the one trying to slant things. 

One positive: the media has so far refrained from calling this a "beef" or a "feud" or a "controversy", that I have seen, which is welcome, but they don't seem to know how to talk about it. There's a continued reluctance to simply describe in plain language what the so-called president of these benighted states is doing when he throws the weight of the office and his considerable audience into trying to influence a court in his favor and preemptively discredit any unfavorable result. They're matter-of-fact about reporting that he called for recusal but the major news sites still seem to be following the very Fox News-ish "we report, you decide" schtick that had them sitting on their hands during the 2016 campaign and so much of the current term, with the thinking being they could just describe Trump's actions neutrally without contextualizing them and trusting that voters would recognize "this is bad".

But the problem with that is that to the extent that the public trusts the news media's honesty and judgment, they must trust that when the news sees nothing wrong with Trump's behavior then it must be basically okay. If there was anything wrong with Trump demanding 2 out of 9 justices stand down, the obvious thinking goes, then surely that would be the headline, not the mere fact that he did it.

The biggest issue here is that four years in, much of the media think of themselves as neutral commentators up above the field of play rather than as participants with skin in the game, whose actions will affect the course of history and who will in turn be affected by the outcomes they themselves help shape.

In the face of that awesome power, I fully understand why they would prefer to try to be neutral and limit their impact as much as possible. But the neutrality is an illusion and the potential impact is just as powerful whether they're thinking about it consciously or trying to pretend it doesn't exist.

I don't see much danger that Ginsburg or Sotomayor will obey his orders, but I do see a risk that that his actions will endanger their safety, and a near certainty that much of the Mild Moderate Middle will come away from any decision that goes against Trump feeling like it was at least slightly ill-gotten, simply because the media repeated and amplified Trump's claims of bias without reporting that he was wrong to make them.