The right-wing media playbook on how to lie, distort, and smear the president's pending appointment to the Supreme Court has already been written. The identity of the actual nominee is only a formality.
If the nominee has bothered to follow civil rights precedent, they will be labeled a "radical." If the nominee bothered to adhere to such stare decisis and is a person of color, they will be labeled a "racist." If the right-wing media figure is queasy about the awkwardness of labeling a civil rights advocate a racist, they will switch to "racialist," which is the nonsense term it seems.
If the nominee tried to stay true to long-accepted First Amendment principles on the separation of church and state, watch for the cries of anti-Christian bias. (That one is also useful if the nominee had the temerity to follow Roe v. Wade, or thinks access to contraception is still protected.)
Impeccable credentials? Cite anonymous sources for what they are really like (it's the only way to claim that Ivy League-educated lawyers are actually stupid) or maybe even offer criticisms of their temperament that would garner praise if they were a white man. Can't get a conservative clerk or member of the bar to disparage a liberal judge on the record? Then go for the “principle, not person” argument to justify obstruction, or even redefine what a principle like "court packing" means all together in order to enforce a judicial nomination blockade on an unprecedented scale.
Speaking of unprecedented -- who cares that there is broad agreement that what the Republicans are doing now is wildly out of step with bipartisan precedent? The logical endpoint of Senate Republicans' slow-walking of the president's executive nominees -- as promised, since he entered office -- was always destined to be the senatorial equivalent of a toy-grabbing temper tantrum. Unfortunately in this case, the consequences are grave.
Is the nominee a woman? Can't the president stop nominating people just because they're a woman?
Did they ever do criminal defense work? Isn't it just like Democrats to even consider a cop-killer's coddler?
Is the nominee Jewish? There are too many Jews on the Supreme Court!
Is the nominee gay? We may be about to find out how far Fox News will countenance blatantly false and homophobic smears in 2016.
All this, and more. Could conservatives add any more embarrassment to an election season already plunging to new lows? They can -- especially when GOP senators start to willingly and shamelessly adopt the half-baked lies, distortions, smears, and outright blunders funneled to them by right-wing media. Throw the old conservative media playbook into the misogynistic, xenophobic, fact-averse cesspool that is the Republican primary season, and we may be about to see an enabling of attacks on a judicial nominee of a sort we haven't seen before.
That's what will be truly unprecedented, not this “gotcha” game of selected quotes and video from decades-old nomination fights that prove nothing. For all those lamenting the substance-free contributions of the primary season to the national discourse, it's about to get worse.
Which is precisely why the media should be very careful when handling the inevitable attacks on the president's nominee. And remember: the right-wing media playbook was already written; the identity of the actual nominee never really mattered.