RNC spokesman: Sometimes principle is more important than having a conservative Supreme Court

This just can’t be. I’ve been assured online every day for the past two months that no principle is more important than a Supreme Court with a Republican majority. Even though conservatives complain endlessly about how disappointing the past 30 years of our Republican-dominated Supreme Court have been.

Lucky thing for Sean Spicer that he said this after the convention was over. He might have been booed out of the arena in Cleveland otherwise.

“We came out against Todd Akin four years ago,” Sean Spicer, the RNC’s communications director, told THE WEEKLY STANDARD Tuesday. “There’s no way, shape, or form this party has a room in it for someone like David Duke.”…

What about if the party control of the Senate were up for grabs—and with it, the fate of the Supreme Court? Would the RNC consider backing Duke in that scenario?

At some point, you have to stand up for some kind of principle, and David Duke does not speak for where the Republican party is,” Spicer said. So what is that limiting principle, and where should national Republicans draw the line?

“What was the Supreme Court ruling on limiting free speech, that you know it when you see it? I mean, at some point, when you’re a white supremacist, that’s a black-and-white [issue]. There’s no gray,” said Spicer.

At … some point you have to stand up for … some kind of principle; that should be etched in granite on the facade of RNC HQ. Spicer will eventually let you know when, I guess, and what the relevant principle might be. One possibility is “the RNC refuses to support candidates with huge white-nationalist followings,” but that won’t work. It would mean they couldn’t support Trump. A better principle is “the RNC refuses to support candidates who are themselves avowed white nationalists,” although some of Trump’s fans within that movement seem convinced that he is one of them and chooses his words carefully to signal it. Duke himself, after name-checking Trump in his announcement for Senate, crowed on his radio show yesterday that Trump didn’t categorically rule out supporting him against a Democrat but said it would depend on who the Democrat is. “I think he felt like he did as much as he could do” in giving that answer, Duke added, suggesting that he thinks Trump’s support would have been more effusive if it wouldn’t have hurt him politically to express it.

I don’t think Trump is any kind of white nationalist but I also don’t think we should kid ourselves about what the true distinction is here for the RNC: The presidential race is too important to allow for any sort of “conscience” objection to the candidate whereas a Senate race isn’t. If the GOP needs to sacrifice a razor-thin Senate majority to prove that it won’t work with outspoken white supremacists, it’ll make that sacrifice for the sake of the party’s brand. If the GOP needs to sacrifice the White House to prove that it won’t work with a guy who’s prepared to issue illegal orders to the military and wants to change the law to make it harder for the press to criticize him, hey. You don’t want a liberal majority on the Supreme Court, do you? Besides, Duke is an easy case for them to repudiate because there’s decades of material on him — links to racist groups like the Klan, writings, audio, and on and on. He’s probably the country’s most famous white nationalist. What about a presidential candidate 20 years down the road who has some connections to the movement but those connections aren’t as robust as Duke’s? How far would the RNC bend to find that “some kind of principle” isn’t implicated in that case?

Spicer will probably have moved on to greener pastures by then so it’s not his problem. In the meantime, here’s what he’s doing today as chief spokesman for one of America’s two major parties during the thick of a presidential campaign.