The strangest moment during the early hours of this year’s CPAC conference did not come from anyone closely associated with Donald J. Trump. No: It was from the man who won last year’s CPAC straw poll for the GOP presidential nomination, Senator Ted Cruz. The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake had a report on the incident:
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) made a pretty odd prediction Thursday: He said he believed there would be a Supreme Court vacancy shortly after Neil Gorsuch’s likely confirmation to fill the existing one.
“I think we’ll have another Supreme Court vacancy this summer,” Cruz said at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). “If that happens, as much as the left is crazy now, [Democrats] will go full Armageddon.”
Blake goes on to offer various theories about why Cruz said that, only one of which involves some actual (and extremely unlikely) exclusive knowledge by the Texan. As Blake notes, the three oldest Justices are not among the hard-core conservatives on the Court, so it would seem Cruz is speculating that the right will soon have an opportunity to pick up a second SCOTUS seat, assuming Gorsuch is confirmed.
Whatever he was trying to do, Cruz should cut it out. It is in extremely poor taste for anyone to publicly kick around the possibility that a Supreme Court Justice could die or become incapacitated — the most likely reasons for a sudden retirement — in the very immediate future. And even if Cruz doesn’t care about taste and decorum, he should understand he is playing with some very powerful emotions by going there.
One of the most important aspects of contemporary SCOTUS politics is that those who get up every morning longing for the criminalization of abortion — a group heavily represented at CPAC, no doubt — are acutely aware they are two SCOTUS Justices short of the majority needed to reverse Roe v. Wade and fulfill the dream of a returning women to the golden age of the early 1970s. One of their great fears is that Trump will get tossed out of power in favor of a Democrat before there is an opportunity to appoint a second sure-to-be-anti-Roe Justice. So in suggesting to a CPAC audience that the great gettin’-up morning could arrive in 2017 was roughly equivalent to telling a class of kindergarten children that that will be given ice-cream cones every hour for the rest of their lives. If nothing else, it is a cruel hoax to the extent Cruz has not been vouchsafed secret knowledge of future events.