I want to get something on the record now in case I am ever nominated for the Supreme Court. I skipped my high school senior prom for a number of reasons, and instead that weekend went to a college fraternity rush party. There was alcohol involved (I like beer) and there was some hasty, albeit consensual, romance. I state freely that I had no intention of joining, (who really needs a rent-a-buddy?) and openly admit I went for the free booze and college girls.
Now, it's all out there for any future Senate Judiciary Committee pinheads, and I can even draw diagrams of the frat house in case Ted Cruz wants to make some more posters. By the way, as an aside, I was a high school and college debater, as was Ted (R-Cancun), and I can vouch for the fact that college debaters hate visual aids in a debate. I witnessed one UH debater named Jeff Riggenbach, now a libertarian think tank guru or something, when he had finished using the opponents carefully drawn chart to dismantle their arguments one by one, proceeded to then rip their beautiful chart in half. They stared, open-mouthed, and the debate judge smiled.
Congressional hearings have always been about theatre, and sometimes it involved actual Hollywood types. Those of you who knew the details of the McCarthy HUAC hearings, or at least watched the movie "Trumbo," know the kind of thing we are talking about. There have been the occasional breaths of fresh air such as attorney Joseph Welch asking the Wisconsin Windbag if he had no sense of decency left.
But, I felt the need to write something, anything, while watching the last 3 days of alternating junior high-level accusations and cheerleading during the "hearings" to consider the nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the highest court in the land. Hearings is the euphemism we use for a week’s worth of preening for the cameras and offering some red meat for the faithful, all in the guise of sober inquiry into the mind of a celebrated jurist.
And lest you think the republicans were all the villains here, well, some of them, this is a mirror image of the kind of shenanigans those wacky pranksters on the democratic side engaged in when they were in the minority.
I'll leave Brett Kavanaugh's sneering performance aside for a moment, because that week of hearings belongs in its own universe of annoyance, on both sides. All it needed was Al Pacino yelling at the whole bloody room and, in fact, I was hoping Al would stride in at some point to end the pain.
When Justice Amy Comey Barrett was on the hot seat about a year and a half ago, the election was a couple of weeks away and, yes, I'm pointing at you Merrick Garland, and democrats smelled blood. The big concern then was abortion and a devout Catholic judge, and the future of the Affordable Care Act with a conservative majority on the court.
No one actually asked her about her Catholic faith directly, but her involvement in a charismatic Christian group called People of Praise was mentioned in the press, after her hearings. A group that preaches strict gender roles in society, it gave Barrett the title of "Handmaid." I know, I know. I saw the show, too.
But that aside, she was grilled about her views on Roe v Wade and the ACA by senator after senator, alternating with the backslapping coming this time from the GOP side of the room. She demurred when asked about the two, wisely quoting Ruth Bader Ginsberg's admonition about taking sides on issues bound to come before the court.
But with an election coming up at that time, the democrat's Norma Desmond-level histrionics weren't really aimed at the judge, but those wonderful people out there in the dark. OK, h-m-m. When are the midterms again? Oh, yeah, in the fall. So, if you are wondering about the amount of, what republican Senator Ben Sasse called "jackassery," during this week's pathetic display, wonder no more, kids. It's all about that base.
No, not that bass, the base. For example, it has become obvious that the crime levels in America, admittedly alarming in some specific areas, will be a big campaign talking point for the GOP. Congress has very little to do with policing street crime, and in upcoming commercials, the only cities you will hear about are led by Democratic mayors. But it doesn't matter, and the math in the upcoming ads, mark my words, will be simple. Democrats in charge equal crime.
The type of crime focused on the Jackson hearings was interesting as well. Child trafficking and pornography is a hot-button issue for, altogether now, the glassy-eyed followers of QAnon. Yep, the fun crowd that thinks the Texas Butterfly Center was a landing point for Mexican child traffickers, and Tom Hanks invites Hillary over to feast on toddlers. I wrote about this nonsense awhile back, but if you think the only crime Cruz, Hawley and the other members of the panderfest focused on was chosen at random, I have some swampland outside Houston for you.
The other focus, leading to the two Hallmark moments in the hearing, was transgender people. By the way, all this attention is being paid to what amounts to .6% of the US population identifying as trans. Now, you wouldn't think that small a group would be worth all the pearl-clutching we are seeing, but they apparently are. There are a couple of prominent examples getting a lot of attention, one in government and one in sports. Now, truth be told, when it comes to sports, I think there is a legitimate discussion needed. And there will be jokes and unfortunate remarks made, which while distasteful, are allowed as free speech.
But when Marsha Blackburn, for whom the beginning of the bell curve was designed, asked a candidate for the Supreme Court to define a woman? I confess to a huge spit take. Then The Tedster topped that by asking if he could simply say that he identifies as an Asian man and then be considered one? That prompted even that moral weathervane Alan Dershowitz to confess to being ashamed Cruz was once a law student of his.
But it became official when our favorite fish stick heir, Tucker Carlson (R-Moscow), took up the cudgel, announcing with as close as he can come to a straight face, that if liberals and trans people can convince you of something that isn't true, they can control your brain. Your brain, people! This is serious, and the lizard people are hard at work making it happen! Listen to Tucker's impossibly fey laughter! And that empty look tells me he means business!
Back to the hearings, the snippy back and forth Ted Cruz had with Committee Chairman Dick Durbin was pure theatre, as demonstrated when an AP photographer standing behind Cruz, saw him checking his Twitter responses after the dust-up.
At this point in the proceedings, let me state something categorically, and about which I will make a large bet. Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and Tom Cotton will never be elected President, despite what the voices in their heads say.
As for Lindsay Graham (R-Tara), obviously his over-compensating performance was too late for Oscar consideration, but I'm willing to make an exception. Make no mistake, though, when the object of this circular firing squad was Amy Comey Barrett, the roles were completely reversed and the scenery-chewing was by democrats. OK, no one came close to Lindsay asking Judge Jackson, "On a scale of one to ten, where would you put your faith?" That, by the way, is a completely unconstitutional question, but hey, constitution-shmonstitution. We have an election to win.
So, after this latest shift in roles, due to the shift in party affiliation of the majority, the hearings show me yet again, this is simply a waste of time. Until 1916, there were no hearings. The Senate simply voted yay or nay on a President's choice. That ended when Woodrow Wilson chose as his nominee, a successful lawyer named Louis Brandeis. Oh, we'd had lawyers before, even rich ones. So what triggered the introduction of a hearing process? Oh, let me guess. It might just be that Brandeis subscribed to the faith of Abraham. Well now, the world's greatest deliberative body woke from its afternoon nap and declared, we'd better look into this.
Thus was born the modern Judiciary Committee hearing, and I think it may be time to go back to the old up or down vote. These hearings are as predictable as a Ted Cruz smirk and as useful as a third nostril. In short, liberal or conservative, the senators are playing to the cheap seats and we in turn are wasting precious anger we can use in the voting booth.
As for watching them engage in this performance art? I will need a large amount of one Justice's favorite source of comfort. To quote Justice Kavanaugh, I like beer.