In this Jan. 4,(AP Photo/Susan Walsh) 2017 file photo, Vice President Joe Biden, left, watches President Barack Obama, center, at Conmy Hall, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va.
September 10, 2020
After a deluge of horrible headlines, ranging from his reported disrespect for troops to intentionally downplaying the severity of the pandemic, President Donald Trump on Wednesday attempted to change the conversation with a simple, though entirely hypothetical, announcement: future potential Supreme Court nominations.
Let's be clear — there's no actual SCOTUS vacancy at this time, but this gives the incumbent another tool in the make-'em-go-wild applause lines for his not-so-socially-distant campaign rallies. And included in the list were a few real newsmakers: Republican Senators Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, and Josh Hawley. Within moments of the announcement, Cotton even tweeted out, "It's time for Roe v. Wade to go."
This strategy proves the media manipulation that, in part, helped propel Trump to the presidency in the first place: the ability to uniquely control — and change — the conversation on his own terms. It's a game that the campaign for Democratic nominee Joe Biden will have to contend with for the next 54 days until the election.
And Biden has a simple way to steal back the thunder on this silly story and reframe it in a way that would drive conservatives up the wall: announce a similarly-hypothetical SCOTUS nomination for none other than former President Barack H. Obama.
Just imagine the breathless outrage on Sean Hannity's opening monologue, or how the Trump Rapid Response team would scramble to respond to the unexpected "announcement" from Biden. But what, exactly, would Biden have to lose? He wouldn't actually be committing to anything, and in the process, he could steal a week's worth of cable news panels, chyrons, and pundit hot takes debating whether or not Obama might actually join William Howard Taft as the only other POTUS-SCOTUS hybrid in U.S. history.
And the arguments write themselves: at only 59-years-old, Obama on the Supreme Court could help ensure liberal longevity, and would put him even younger than Merrick Garland was in 2016. Obama was the first Black president of the Harvard Law Review and graduated magna cum laude; he could also help uphold any of the signature policies that Obama-Biden fought for through eight years in office. And a recent Morning Consult/Politico poll found that the Obamas remain the most popular figures in the Democratic Party.
The issue has come up before: on the campaign trail, Biden was asked in Iowa if he would ever consider nominating his former boss to the high court; he responded, "If he'd take it, yes."
But aside from the merits of the choice itself, the short-term strategy to such a move would be clear: play the media like a fiddle the way Trump does. Stealing back the spotlight with non-announcement-announcements would show that the Biden campaign is willing to fight and aggressively frame headlines on its terms. Donald Trump's undeniable showmanship makes him an unrivaled force in national politics, and Joe Biden can't miss his windows to show a bit of media pizzazz himself to compete against the headline-creating incumbent.
Not to mention, it would be a good opportunity to restate the obvious: a Biden White House would fight for the preservation of Roe v. Wade.
The opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of Cheddar and Altice USA.