A Supreme Court strategy for Ted Cruz

There will be confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Obama's appointment.  Mitch McConnell hoped to avoid them, but Grassley is the chairman, and he'll have hearings.

The main reason McConnell is against the idea is that these hearings will be the focus of national attention, rivaling the campaign for president in media coverage.  The stakes on a judicial appointment have never been this high in our history.  The Supreme Court has evolved into a high-level political battleground, with Scalia's successor holding the balance of power – not only on the court, but, in a sense, for the country.

Joe Biden wanted to run for president in 1987, and he used his post as chair of Senate Judiciary committee to launch full-scale war on Robert Bork.  He succeeded in killing Bork's Supreme Court appointment.  (That's how we wound up with Justice Kennedy.)  He naturally overestimated the good that it had done him politically, but there's no doubt it gave a boost to his campaign for president.

Of the ten Republicans on Senate Judiciary, none holds a candle to Ted Cruz in the ability to use these hearings as an opportunity to demonstrate to the American people the importance of this appointment.  Nobody on the left is in the same league as Cruz.  Regardless of who is appointed, Cruz will slice him to pieces.  

This is the Ted Cruz that Mitch McConnell doesn't want the country to see.  And he's right, of course.  This has the potential of giving Cruz the nomination.  If he's already secured the nomination, it could win him the general.

Not that anybody cares, but you can learn a lot from studying history on this.  Eisenhower was not a lawyer, and when he was urged to make Republican California Governor Earl Warren the chief justice, he went along.  He later admitted that it was one of the worst mistakes of his presidency.  Ford put John Paul Stevens on the Court.  Ford didn't have any idea of what he was doing.  Bush 1 put David Souter on the court – an enormous mistake.  And then came Bush 2 with the attempted nomination of Harriet Miers – a completely frivolous appointment.

The two thirds of the Republican Party that aren't Trump cultists care very much about the Supreme Court.  Even Trump supporters do, but nothing but Trump really matters to them.  The fact that you can trust Ted Cruz to make the best appointment any of us could hope for is a reason to vote for him.

That's why McConnell doesn't want hearings. But if the hearings are held, after they're over, Cruz should resign from the Senate.  He's very close to Texas governor Greg Abbott, and knows his replacement will be as stalwart as he is.  Right now the Senate is a distraction to him.  He doesn't want to be a United States senator, and they don't want him.  If he loses the nomination, he's the odds-on favorite to be appointed to the Scalia seat.  He'd rather be a Supreme Court justice than a United States senator.  And serving in the seat held by Antonin Scalia is a high honor.

Service on the Supreme Court doesn't have to be a lifetime commitment.  In the 19th century, especially, it was common for justices to be actively considered as potential presidential candidates.  Cruz is young enough to serve a decade on the Court and still be in his prime as a possible president.  If he's not the nominee, he can serve on the Court and keep his political options open.

I like the theater that would be involved in a Cruz resignation announcement.  He can talk about why he ran for the Senate and what he found there once he'd been elected.  He can go over the controversial stands he's taken as a senator and why he took them.  He can explain why they don't like him in the Senate and how that in fact is a badge of honor.

Much depends on timing, and the Senate will do all it can to prevent Cruz from using these hearings as a launchpad to the nomination.  But the hearings will be held, and Cruz will shine.

As a man, I liked Antonin "Nino" Scalia as much as any public figure I've ever encountered.  He was a man for all seasons.  Even in death, he serves his country.

Fritz Pettyjohn was chairman of Reagan for President, Alaska, in 1979-80; is a co-founder of the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force; and blogs daily at ReaganProject.com.

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