LOS ANGELES - This week, the United States of America neared its 200,000th coronavirus-related death.
In California, millions of acres continued to burn, as 2020 has now seen five of the ten largest wildfires in the state’s history.
Then, late Friday, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, appointed to the court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, passed away from complications of metastatic pancreas cancer. The 87-year-old’s death left a liberal hole on the nation’s highest court, setting up a major fight that will no doubt have an immense impact on the upcoming Presidential election.
To honor the late Justice, Elex Michaelson is joined by attorney Gloria Allred, Reuters White House Correspondent Jeff Mason, political strategist Bob Shrum, and Loyola Law School professor Stanley Goldman.
Michaelson is also joined by former four-term California Governor Jerry Brown to discuss the wildfires, and the impacts of climate change.
The conversation kicks off with attorney Gloria Allred, a friend and admirer of Ginsburg’s, who has frequently referred to the late justice as her “she-ro.”
“She’s my ‘she-ro,’ and the ‘she-ro' to millions of women in the United States and around the world,” Allred said. “She was a fighter who had a passion for justice, she was brilliant, she was caring, and thoughtful, and kind, even to those who had a different point of view than she had, and I will miss her greatly.”
Through a historical lens, Allred praised Ginsburg as a role model for, as a young lawyer, arguing for women’s rights before the Supreme Court, all before becoming the second woman to actually be appointed to the same prestigious body.
Ginsburg’s appointment came 12 years after President Reagan appointed Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to the high court. In the intervening 27 years, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan have also ascended to the bench.
Allred’s praise of Ginsburg extended to how the late Justice comported herself on a daily basis, citing her grace, dignity, and her knowledge that her voice, and dissent, were important.
“She knew how much it meant to so many of us for her to be there,” Allred continued. “Even when she dissented, and wrote those opinions, she knew, that hopefully one day, that her voice would persuade others on the Supreme Court that women should be able to enjoy, and be afforded equal rights, and equal protections under the law, women and minorities.”
From praise and reflection, the conversation pivoted to the politics of the moment, Allred admonishing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R), who, in his statement on Ginsburg’s passing, noted that President Trump’s nominee would get a vote on the Senate floor.
“It’s obscene,” Allred responded. “For US Senator Mitch McConnell to talk about replacing her on the day that her death has been announced, can’t you even wait until after the funeral? It is revolting and it is a disgrace, and so disrespectful to her, and to all of us that admired her.”
McConnell wasn’t the only politician to quickly make Ginsburg’s passing political. Within minutes of Ginsburg’s passing, the re-election campaign of Iowa Senator Joni Ernst (R) sent out a fundraising email to supporters.
There was also Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D), who received criticism for tweeting out condolences to Ginsburg only after a earlier tweet in which he said her vacancy should not be filled.
“There’s only one Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there will never be another, she’s irreplaceable,” Allred said. “But, I always say, first we cry, then we fight… we have to fight to continue her legacy, and to continue what she started, which is standing up for women’s rights, we must all do that, each one of us… we can all be voices for justice, we all should be, that’s what she would have wanted.”
Next, Michaelson was joined by a collection of political and legal analysts, breaking down the historic nomination fight that broke out within minutes of the news of Ginsburg’s passing - a fight that could cement the court’s balance of power for a generation, and a fight that now takes center-stage with just over 40 days left before the November 3 election.
“It’s a big deal to choose a nominee and then to get that person through the process in Congress, it’s also a time, it’s worth underscoring, when lawmakers are out campaigning themselves for their own elections,” said Jeff Mason, Reuters’ White House Correspondent, noting how tight and tricky the timetable for appointing a new Justice might be.
Responding to Michaelson’s question about what Democrats in the Senate might do to hold off an appointment before January 20, Mason added that, given the basic math of representation in the Senate, if and when President Trump announces a nominee, there’s not many cards Democrats could play to stop it.
With that math in mind, friend-of-the-show Bob Shrum, the political strategist and co-director of USC’s Dornsife Center for the Political Future, mapped out a possible scenario for the weeks ahead.
“There’s no way Trump, having made such a big issues of this, and with his strongly Evangelical base, cannot, within the next two weeks, come up with a Conservative choice, Conservative on all the social issues, that satisfies his base,” he said.
Once the President announces his SCOUTS replacement, Shrum anticipates pushback from Republican Senators in tight re-election bids, could result in Leader McConnell postponing the confirmation until after the election in an effort to keep as many interested parities happy as possible.
Beyond the current election, an appointment of a new Justice is poised to create a ripple effect for future Presidents, especially if President Trump were to appoint a Justice and then lose in November.
Loyola Law School Professor Stan Goldman told Michaelson that the move could set a precedent for future Presidents to take matters into their own hands to shift the balance of power in their direction.
“One guideline that is not written, that the next President of the United States could follow if they wanted to, they could appoint a 10th, and 11th, and a 12th, and a 13th Justice to the Court if they so wanted to switch the balance,” Goldman said. “Nine is not in stone, it was once five, it was once seven, then it became nine, it’s tradition, just like not appointing a Justice right before an election, it’s a tradition, it’s not a rule of law.”
Finally, this week, a conversation with former four-term Governor of California, Jerry Brown, filmed before news of Justice Ginsburg’s passing broke.
Earlier this week, as wildfires continued to ravage the Golden State, President Trump made his way West to meet with Governor Gavin Newsom. On that visit, Michaelson spoke with the President, who attributed much of the wildfire activity to poor forest management in California.
Brown agreed that forest management is an issue, but placed the responsibility for overseeing that management at the feet of the President.
“It’s his forests, California only owns 3% of the forests… Mr. Trump is the foremost forest manager under his legal responsibility,” Brown argued. “Having said all that, what do we need to do? We need to thin forests very carefully. We need preventative fires. We need fire fighters, we need helicopters, we need planes. Unfortunately, and tragically, these fires are part of the new normal.”
These preventative efforts, Brown added, are separate from the fight against climate change, a subject which Newsom, and other state leaders, confronted President Trump with on his visit.
Brown praised Newsom’s strategic dealings with the President, saying their relationship since Newsroom took office in 2019 has resulted in billions of federal funding to California. However, Brown hinted he may have handled the situation somewhat differently were he trying to convince the President on the dangers of climate change.
“I was in that opportunity, and I didn’t even say as much as Gavin, and I’ll tell you why, I don’t think [Trump’s] open to this,” Brown said. “This is a topic that he’s heard, he’s a very political, strategic guy, and he has decided that denying climate, repealing 50 different policies on the environment that President Obama put in, will stimulate his base, this is part of his strategy.”
With the fires burning, and California seeing a number of record temperatures in recent weeks, Michaelson asked Brown what “radical changes” he would recommend to slow, or reverse, the effects of climate change.
“You can’t prevent it in the short term, because we can’t stop dumping all the CO2, and methane, and other chemicals into the environment,” Brown cautioned, adding that the best hope is to slow down emissions, working towards zero, or net-zero emissions, within the next 25 years, at best.
To help in that effort, Brown proposed a mandate of zero-emission vehicles, an increased price on cap-and-trade, and continued low-carbon fuel standards, at least in a way that doesn’t cause “voters to revolt on you.”
The discussion wrapped with a game of “Personal Issues,” a rapid-fire personality game to get to know Brown better after nearly 50 decades in public service.
Among the personal favorites and preferences Brown revealed were the fact his favorite movie is Casablanca, his favorite meal is a bean, rice, and cheese burrito, his favorite singer is Linda Ronstadt, who Brown dated in the 1970s, and the best thing about being a Californian is “living in Colusa County with the coyotes and rattle snakes.”
The Issue Is: with Elex Michaelson is California's only statewide political show. For showtimes and more information, go to TheIssueIsShow.com.