Like Alice’s Wonderland, Mitch McConnell’s world is the exact opposite of reality. By deigning to rewrite history and trash the Constitution, his latest pitch has once again left truth, justice and American democracy in the ditch.
He claims there is precedence for leaving the Supreme Court vacancy open a whole year, and that the Senate should wait until the people have spoken.
Yet the reality is the exact opposite — precedence positively demands that the president nominate and the Senate appoint this year. The people already have spoken. Twice. In electoral landslides.
McConnell should know about the Constitution. Not only is he a lawyer, he is a longtime self-promoter of his bona fides as its staunch defender. He knows the Constitution directs the president to nominate and then, with the advice and consent of the Senate, appoint justices to the Supreme Court. He also knows that the president has this constitutional duty even in his last year of office.
To be sure, along with that duty comes a great responsibility. It is incumbent upon President Barack Obama to choose a moderate candidate with impeccable qualifications and a history of well-reasoned legal analysis. The responsibility then shifts to the Senate who must confirm such a nominee.
While incapable of accurately citing it, at least McConnell acknowledges the importance of precedence. That being the case, here’s some precedence he would rather citizens not know:
▪ In the history of our nation the Senate has never failed to confirm a Supreme Court nominee made by a non-Independent president in his last full year in office. (The only time was in 1844 during John Tyler’s last year; Tyler joined the Whig party to get elected then quickly became an Independent).
▪ On Feb. 18, 1988, during President Ronald Reagan’s last year in office the Democratically controlled Senate confirmed Reagan’s nominee, sitting Justice Anthony Kennedy, by a 97-0 vote. Where is the kind of leadership that brings such unity?
▪ Never before in the history of our nation has a Senate leader proclaimed that his party’s goal was to make a newly elected president of the opposite party a one-termer. His goal was not working to help America recover from the Great Recession, but rather to obstruct and destruct our national polity in an effort to make the president and his party look bad.
▪ Never before has a Senate leader and his party tried to undermine a president by directly threatening Iran’s leaders in an effort to sabotage the president’s peace-seeking negotiations with Iran, negotiations which ultimately culminated in a multi-nation deal and which is already showing early signs of success.
▪ And never before in our nation’s history has an opposition party actively sided with a foreign power over the president, which McConnell’s Republicans did by courting Benjamin Netanyahu with Sen. Lindsey Graham saying, “I’m here to tell you, Mr. Prime Minister, that the Congress will follow your lead,” and then-speaker John Boehner inviting him to address a joint session of Congress in February, 2015 in an attempt to torpedo the president’s peace-making overtures to Iran.
McConnell has been acting for his big-moneyed supporters and against the public interest for a long time. Money is not speech, it is volume and as with noise ordinances needs to be regulated in our electoral process. Improved gun-safety laws are not gun bans and kowtowing to the National Rifle Association on reasonable and essential progress sheds more blood every single day. The war in Iraq had no justification and trickle-down corporate welfare has led to the widest inequality gap since the Roaring Twenties.
As Alice said, “It would be so nice if something would make sense for a change.” McConnell is in an esteemed position to do really good things for our nation, not just in crafting win-win policies with the other party, but also in improving civility and national unity. He is nearing the sunset of his political career with a legacy to consider.
Hopefully it will be one that is honored not merely by the few, but by us all.
Richard Dawahare is a Lexington lawyer.
At issue: Feb. 25 Associated Press article, “Senate GOP leader holds fast in blocking Obama court pick”