The Confirmation Circus

Confirmation hearings for Trump’s nominees have become quite a circus. It was to be expected, unfortunately. I remember when Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin was putting forth his agenda a few years ago. Democrats in the Wisconsin legislature ran away to Illinois so there wouldn’t be a quorum to conduct business. Senate Democrats seem to be copying that strategy, refusing to show up to vote on whether to send nominees to the full Senate.

It’s a tried and true method used by toddlers, angry juveniles, and immature people everywhere.

Republicans had to alter the rules even to get the nominees out of committee. Perhaps it’s the only way to deal with temper tantrums.

In the Democrats’ crosshairs now is Betsy DeVos, slated to be the new education secretary. Since she’s an advocate for private schooling, the teachers’ unions are up in arms. They’ve been busy consolidating their support with the Democrats:

I’m always amused by cries of “influence” when aimed at various conservative groups who donate to Republicans. The National Education Association (NEA) and its allies practically own Democrats; they have more money to throw around than all conservative groups combined.

Soon we’ll be treated with the confirmation hearing for Neil Gorsuch, chosen to take Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court. The circus will continue. Over a decade ago, Gorsuch received a unanimous vote for his current judicial position. That’s history.

I trust Gorsuch is prepared for what he is about to experience:

Will Republicans have to turn to what is called the “nuclear option,” not allowing a filibuster on the nomination?

What a shame that this scenario has turned into an unbridgeable political divide. Democrats have become unhinged over these nominees, using their outrage to raise even more funding for their theatrics.

I know that theatrics have played a role throughout American political history, but I don’t believe we’ve ever witnessed the kind of role-playing that has come to the forefront ever since Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, at least not on such a sustained basis. We are a nation that is verging on a complete cultural and political division not seen since the Civil War.

What will be the result?

The Gorsuch Pick

President Trump’s choice of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court fulfills one of his campaign promises. Gorsuch, from all accounts I’ve read, will be a superb replacement for Antonin Scalia.

Those who know him praise his keen mind and devotion to following the Constitution and not making up rights that don’t really exist.

His record as a judge is stellar on issues of religious liberty. His explanations for his opinions (often as dissents to the prevailing liberal majority in his district) point to a clear understanding of how our system ought to work.

He has offered judicial opinions in favor of Hobby Lobby and The Little Sisters of the Poor, the religious liberty of a prisoner, and against the American Atheists organization when it successfully sued for removal of cross-shaped roadside memorials in Utah.

In that case, specifically, he disagreed with his fellow justices who, he said, mistakenly viewed the memorials through the eyes of a so-called “reasonable observer” who was “biased” against religion, “full of foibles and misinformation,” “prone to mistake,” and burdened with “selective and feeble eyesight.”

In his career he clerked for two Supreme Court justices: Byron White and Anthony Kennedy. The latter was very impressed with him and, I’m sure, would welcome him on the Court. Perhaps that respect might sway Kennedy over to the right side on upcoming cases.

The Democrats in the Senate have already begun the smear campaign against him. As many have noted, the slogans and accusations were already prepared ahead of time to be used against whoever was nominated. All they were waiting for was to fill in the blank where the name goes. Let’s be clear: they would be making the same accusations no matter whom the nominee was going to be. It’s a template they follow regardless of the individual.

As long as all Republicans remain firm, there should be no problem putting Gorsuch on the Court, even if it means abolishing the Senate rule for a 60-vote supermajority to allow the actual vote for confirmation to go forward.

Prepare for more hysterics from the perpetually peeved and perturbed:

Give Trump credit for one more good decision, but stay alert. You never know what he might do after this.

Senate Confirmation Hearings

More often than not, presidential nominees to important cabinet positions sail through the confirmation process in the Senate, much the same way as nominees for the Supreme Court do. The standard has been to let a president have the people he wants around him. However, that should never be a blank check for any president. The reason the Constitution gave the Senate confirmation authority was to provide a check on any presidential appointments that are not, in the senators’ view, in the best interests of the nation. Therefore, the Senate has a serious responsibility to judge carefully all nominees.

This past week, the Senate approved John Kerry’s nomination to be Secretary of State, which is perhaps the most prominent cabinet-level job in the government. He is now the face of the United States in dealings with other nations. This is the man who, back during the Vietnam War, accused his fellow soldiers of committing genocide. He then threw his medals over the fence at the White House. Political disagreement is protected speech. Those who served with him also have the identical free speech privilege. When Kerry ran for president in 2004, many of those fellow soldiers took him to task for distorting their service, and they effectively countered his views.

Now he has this high-level position. We are supposed to trust him. I trust him just as much as I trust President Obama. I believe they are cut from the same cloth, and their similar worldviews may do considerable damage to the nation. I’m trying to remember when Kerry was ever on the right side of a foreign policy issue, at least from my perspective. I’m drawing a blank. Does he really understand the threats we face?

There is good reason to be concerned.

Then there’s former senator Chuck Hagel being put forward for Secretary of Defense. This is a man who has made derogatory comments about Israel and has opposed almost every effort to combat terrorism. He even said the Iranian government is legitimate despite the obvious fraud in its previous elections. In his confirmation hearings last week, he embarrassed himself with his lack of knowledge and his constant walkback on previous comments. Even Democrats are finding it hard to say positive things about him after his dismal performance.

 

One shouldn’t be surprised, though. He’s actually a very fine representative of the man who nominated him.

Why do I keep wanting to end my posts with comments like “We’re in big trouble”?

The Royal Executive

I would like to continue yesterday’s theme: the unconscionable power grab by the president as he dismissed the Constitution outright by appointing Richard Cordray to the new consumer protection bureau [so-called, but hardly accurate] without Senate confirmation. You just can’t do that when the Congress has not recessed. And what is meant by a genuine recess anyway? If we go back to the time of the writing of the Constitution, the Founders never conceived of a Congress that rarely went home. They even inserted a provision that required Congress to meet at least once each year because they were concerned about the president trying to rule by himself.

Well, their fears were well founded.

For the Founders, a recess undoubtedly meant the many long months in between congressional sessions. Nowadays, Congress only leaves for a week or two here and there; they’ve turned their jobs into fulltime endeavors. Taking advantage of a recess of a few weeks to insert an appointee that the Senate may reject is not in the spirit of the Founders, whether done by Republican or Democrat. Obama has simply taken it to a new level, ignoring the need for a recess before making an appointment. He concluded, apparently by his royal prerogative, that since Congress wasn’t doing much right now, he could declare it in recess.

He has little use for that old, outdated document called the Constitution. I mean, why bother with that when you can just declare yourself the ultimate authority?

But don’t worry, he’s doing it for the people:

It’s the refrain used by all dictators.

So will the media watchdogs call him on this? Aren’t they seekers of truth? What about the general public? Don’t they want truth and fidelity to the rule of law to be the hallmark of our republic?

Or are they satisfied with something less . . .  and far more selfish?

The Dance Begins

Today begins the next installment of the Great Supreme Court Dance as the Senate starts its hearings on the nomination of Elena Kagan to the highest court in the land. These confirmation hearings have developed their own rituals.

Here’s how the Dance will proceed:

  1. The nominee will state how honored she is to have been nominated.
  2. Democrats will praise her for her wonderful resume and her empathy for the downtrodden.
  3. Republicans will, to some extent, challenge her fitness for the bench.
  4. Democrats will accuse Republicans of an “ism” of some kind.
  5. Republicans will retreat from their best arguments against her qualifications so as not to be linked with whatever “ism” they are being accused of.
  6. The nominee will sail through the proceedings without having to say what she really believes about anything.
  7. The committee will forward her nomination to the full Senate with all Democrats voting for her and most, but not all, Republicans voting against her.
  8. The full Senate will confirm her for the Supreme Court with all Democrats voting to confirm and over half of the Republicans saying no [the rest will say that a president has a right to choose whomever he wants on the court].
  9. The country will be stuck with another radical who has no respect for the original intent of the Constitution.
  10. “Diversity” will have triumphed once more.

Given Kagan’s obvious dislike for the military, her support for vetoing a ban on partial-birth abortions, and her clone-like agreement with all things Obama, one would hope there will be some stout debate over her fitness. In no way does she fall into some imaginary moderate category.

Further, Kagan has no experience on a court. Republicans will have to pick through thousands of documents to find the key ones that illuminate her views. Considering how many documents they must peruse, it is obvious that this confirmation process is on an expedited track in hopes of not allowing time to examine them all.

Not all the Dance is choreographed ahead of time; there may be some surprises. While the probability of this proceeding as I’ve outlined above is somewhere in the range of 99%, there’s still that 1%. You never know for sure what can happen. So until this Dance plays out as I expect it will, I’m going to continue to write about her deficiencies and pray that a miracle of sorts will derail the additon of another radical to the court.

The Wisdom of the Court?

The Supreme Court was never meant to be the ultimate authority in the land. That may surprise some people because we have operated on the premise it is the final word on all political controversies. As a nation, we’ve been conditioned to think that whenever the Court speaks, all shall bow before its wisdom.

What wisdom was involved in a decision to make it legal to kill unborn children? Was it wisdom that later refused to rethink that decision simply because it was a precedent that shouldn’t be overturned? The Court, in that case, somehow made Roe v. Wade into an almost sacred ruling that no one should ever touch.

Yet we continue to bow. So every time a president nominates someone to this Court, the confirmation process in the Senate takes on the nature of high drama. Why? Because the elevation of this individual, whoever it may be, could turn the ship of state with a single 5-4 decision.

Since we’re probably not going to change our attitude with respect to the Court’s lofty position, it is imperative that we scrutinize each nominee’s philosophy of law and each one’s track record in court. In the case of Elena Kagan, that scrutiny is nearly curtailed by her lack of a judicial record.

What exactly does she have going for her besides being a philosophical clone of this president?

That might be her best qualification, but how will we know for sure?

Whereas in the past Kagan has called for real hearings to find out what judges actually think, all of sudden she has experienced a conversion. She will revert to the standard “I refuse to comment on specific cases that may come before the Court” mantra.

Truth be told, I don’t need to hear her say what she believes. To anyone with any political knowledge at all, it’s quite obvious how she will judge cases. She will do so ideologically. Barack Obama would only nominate someone who shares his ideology and who won’t hesitate to act upon it.