Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg revealed last week that she has been undergoing treatment for what she described as “a recurrence of cancer.” But though the 87-year-old’s recent health struggles have renewed speculation that she may soon step down, the latest reports of an impending SCOTUS retirement have nothing to do with Ginsburg at all.
Forbes contributor Bill Whalen suggested in a bombshell op-ed Tuesday that Clarence Thomas may soon “take one for the team” by announcing his retirement from the high court.
“[W]hy should Thomas shock the world by announcing his retirement[?]” Whalen asked. “One reason: with nearly three decades of court experience, Thomas already is in exclusive company — and well past other justices’ points of retirement.”
The writer explained: “114 men and women have served as a Supreme Court justice; only 14 did so for three decades (the late Antonin Scalia, whose February 2016 death sparked the controversy that led to Gorsuch joining the Court a year later, served 29 years, 140 days).”
“Imagine a scenario…”
In his op-ed, Whalen goes on to cite polls showing President Donald Trump trailing behind the Democrats’ likely White House pick, Joe Biden, opening the possibility that Biden could be the one to choose Thomas’ successor if the 72-year-old jurist doesn’t retire before the end of this year.
Ironically, as Whalen noted, Biden, a Delaware Democrat, was the senator heading the Judiciary Committee during Thomas’ contentious confirmation hearings.
“Imagine a scenario in which an 80-year-old Justice Thomas retires the same year in which an 85-year-old Joe Biden finishes his second term,” Whalen wrote Tuesday. “How would a Republican-controlled Senate react? Welcome back to 2016-plus-12-years…with an 86-year-old Mitch McConnell still calling the shots(?).”
The columnist added: “None of that happens if Thomas decides to retire this summer.”
“Heads would explode”
According to Whalen, a retirement from Thomas, if perhaps unlikely, would certainly be an electoral “game-changer” going into November — one that could benefit Trump’s slipping campaign. “What Trump needs is a game-changer — something to crack the news cycle other than the assorted miseries of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Whalen wrote Tuesday.
“And a Thomas retirement might do that,” the columnist continued. “Heads would explode on CNN and MSNBC as McConnell tap dances around the previous election-year standard.”
Recent polls have indeed shown Trump behind Biden by double-digits in some instances, as The Washington Post reports. But as we saw in 2016, the polls aren’t always the most accurate depiction of Americans’ plans for the ballot box — and Trump still has several months to go.
“Maybe the Trump campaign is holding out for an ‘October Surprise’ that shakes up the election in its final weeks,” Whalen wrote for Forbes Tuesday. “Justice Thomas calling it a day and giving Trump his third Supreme Court vacancy would serve the same purpose — well before October.”