New Orleans There’s a bitter irony to the current charade called a confirmation hearing for a new justice to join the United States Supreme Court. All of the players, including the nominee, pretend their concern is for the rule of law and the bedrock of the Constitution, while proving with every action and word out of their mouths that the rule of politics is the only current law of the land.
One of the key distinguishing features of American government, held up as a shining light both around the world and in any of the remaining civics classes taught in US schools, is the principle of checks-and-balances between co-equal branches of government: executive, legislative, and judicial. When those facts fade to fiction, little is left but politics and the votes on hand. When the Senate, holding the confirmation power for justices, is ruled by nothing other than partisan politics, there is no check and there is no balance, but simply the pedestrian ability to hold and count the votes.
It is beyond me how anyone can stomach the proceedings in such a farcical affair? Politicians made speeches, often not bothering to even ask a question, since the answers are trivial, unimportant, and certainly not binding on the candidate. The current proceedings are the most cynical in my memory. We have little but a craven power play on display, directed by the Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. After refusing to even grant a hearing to President Obama’s nominee four years ago on the pretense that it was an election year and the new president should suddenly have the opportunity to name the replacement, now we’re on speedup to confirm a third Trump appointee within days of the next election, where both he and the Senate majority are imperiled. A newspaper headline used the word “cynical.” Certainly, that’s apt, but it doesn’t do justice to the caviling of US Senators having to justify their diametrically different positions only short years ago.
I find myself amazed at the rawness of the ambition of the nominees more than anything else, because their pretense is even more extreme as they posture about their commitment to the law, while embracing the worst of political theater. Brett Kavanaugh was brutish and rude in his sense of entitlement, while Amy Barrett is subdued and calculating, but it hardly matters since no questions are answered, and their very presence establishes that they owe their “soul to the company store.” Neil Gorsuch almost seems to have character in comparison for reaching out to Judge Merrick Garland in respect and acknowledgment that he was getting a seat on the Supreme Court thanks to politics, rather than legal achievement.
I can’t help wondering how someone like Barrett sleeps at night, as she hands the last shred of her integrity to McConnell? Is any job so important or any ambition so justified, when it comes at the cost of politics subsuming justice and the loss of checks and balances that have preserved the country for hundreds of years? None of this makes me mad, since it is also pat and predictable, but I find that it makes me profoundly sad.