After we recently praised Sen. Thom Tillis for seemingly taking masking seriously — as he should, in light of the continuing pandemic — we were notified by several readers that, no, we spoke too soon.
Tillis had apologized for falling “short of my own standard” when he skipped the mask while attending President Trump’s Republican National Convention acceptance speech at the White House South lawn. Considering his otherwise strong advocacy, we suggested he receive “a mulligan.”
But he was soon after seen hobnobbing close to others in public — again, sans mask.
No more mulligans. Protecting others from a deadly pandemic isn’t a trifle; it’s a serious matter.
Tillis, the incumbent junior senator from North Carolina who faces a challenge this fall from Democrat Cal Cunningham, has reversed himself (yet again). At issue this time is Tillis reneging on a position he expressed in 2016 on when and when not to fill a Supreme Court vacancy.
“The campaign is already under way,” Tillis said then in a speech from the Senate floor.
“It is essential to the institution of the Senate and to the very health of our republic to not launch our nation into a partisan, divisive confirmation battle during the very same time the American people are casting their ballots to elect our next president.”
“There should be no hearings,” Tillis said. “There should be no confirmation. The most pragmatic conclusion to draw is to hold the Supreme Court vacancy until the American people’s voices have been heard.”
That, of course, was when President Barack Obama sought to nominate a moderate judge, Merrick Garland, to the seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
Now that the almost identical situation has arisen in 2020, Tillis is saying the exact opposite, joining the GOP rush to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
“The president has the responsibility and the authority to nominate a justice,” Tillis said last week at a Trump rally in Fayetteville. “As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I’ve seen the list of justices. He’s going to nominate one of those justices and I’m going to vote for their confirmation.”
The major difference between now and then, of course, is that a Republican president is in power.
Obama nominated Garland for a seat on the bench 237 days before the election.
Trump says he will reveal his nominee on Saturday, only 38 days before the election.
Tillis has become an old hand at contradicting himself to suit the occasion. As state House speaker, he supported an amendment to the North Carolina constitution that banned gay marriage while also saying that changing attitudes about the issue would soon render the amendment obsolete.
Last year, he opposed Trump’s use of a national emergency declaration to fund the border wall in a Washington Post op-ed before quickly changing his mind after blowback from Trump supporters.
Then he waffled on whether to mask.
At least, in regard to Supreme Court nominations, he’s got lots of company. So many Republicans have reversed their 2016 opinions that a New York Times opinion writer spliced them into an op-ed on Wednesday, Tillis’ comments among them:
Sen. Ted Cruz: “For 80 years it has been the practice that the Senate has not confirmed any nomination made during an election year, and shouldn’t make an exception now.”
Sen. John Cornyn: “I believe the American people deserve to have a voice in the selection of the next Supreme Court justice.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: “Our view is this: Give the people a choice.”
And, well, you get the idea.
Republicans say Democrats are contradicting themselves by pushing to delay the choice of Ginsburg’s successor. And that’s true.
But what is more concerning is the abject lack of shame from Republicans. Or honesty. Or just plain decency.
Under President Trump, who has uttered more than 20,000 falsehoods (so far), the bar seems to have been lowered to the point that there really isn’t a bar.
Lie. Bully. Look out for No. 1. Win at any costs. Anyone who doesn’t is a sucker and a loser.
But senators are elected to serve the people, not the president. Or themselves.
Which brings us back to Tillis, who seems willing to do whatever it takes — and to be whomever he needs to be — to keep his seat.
The bigger problem isn’t the mask Tillis wasn’t wearing. It’s the mask he was wearing all along.
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