Revolted Colonies

U.S. Politics and Culture

Tag: Chris Coons

Freaky, Flakey Friday

Last night, some blowhard was talking about the Senate and the power of one; meaning one retiring senator, Jeff Flake (R-AZ), overwhelmed by a spasm of conscience, brokered a deal with his pal, Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), to hold up a confirmation vote on beer enthusiast Brett Kavanaugh. The Senate won’t vote until the FBI has conducted a further, limited investigation into the Kegger’s school-boy and adult-boy antics.

While Flake and Coons enjoy a relaxing smoke in the rosy afterglow of bipartisanship, they should remember that it took three women to move their conscience to break from the Republican cohort.  It took the power of one, Christine Blasey Ford, who, in spite of her revulsion and fears,  spoke her truth before the Senate committee and the world. Through the agency of another woman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ford forced the Senate to listen to her story. After that, it still took another woman, Ana Maria Archila, co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy, to force Flake to check his own conscience. Archila demanded that Flake look her in the eye while she told him tearfully that a vote to confirm would mean that women’s ordeals don’t matter and that men don’t care.

  Nevertheless, Flake deserves credit for forcing the issue in committee. He is stepping down because he has become unelectable. At least, it’s given him the opportunity to break ranks and, in doing so, slow down the Republican juggernaut.

The power of one senator who is willing to reach across the aisle carries tremendous power. Flake’s rebellion gives cover to other Republicans to vote their consciences, free of recrimination. If there are a few reasonable actors within the majority caucus that who will vote free of party pressure on important issues, the leadership might have to engage in meaningful negotiation. It’s too bad that Flake had to resign as a result of opposing FEPOTUS. Maybe one of the other GOP apostates will survive. If so, the Senate may be pushed back toward collegiality and compromise, notwithstanding Lindsey Graham’s partisan eruption. From time to time, a pair of Senate co-sponsors might emerge from one of the its delivery rooms to announce the birth of a meaningful bipartisan agreement.

To paraphrase Barack Obama, that is what change would look like.

And to paraphrase Joe Biden, that would be a big fucking deal.

The Kegger Plays His Trump Card

Yesterday’s meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee predictably satisfied the expectations of political junkies, #metoo activists and garden-variety voyeurs. The crowd also experienced the rare surprise of the cool and collected Brett Kavanaugh putting on his angry Trump face for the galleries and the folks at home. Trump’s Justice in utero wasn’t going to go out without a Trumpian rant.

Kegger spent several days in White House captivity, mastering the Trump playbook. He roared about the Democrats’ chicanery, lamented that his days of teaching and coaching girls’ sports may be over, and raged that the coveted prize, a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court was being pulled out of his hands. He didn’t use the words “rigged” or “witch hunt,” and he wept and cursed his fate. Otherwise, it was unvarnished Trump-speak. Trump’s hand was up the Kegger’s back, moving his lips and waving his arms.

The Republican senators had hired Rachel Mitchell, an able and experienced sex crimes prosecutor from Arizona, to question accuser Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in their stead. Mitchell took each majority members’ five-minute segment in the Ford questioning, and she was scheduled to do the same with the Kegger. However, chairman Grassley and his bloc, fortified by the nominee’s new-found belligerence, decided to take back the microphone.

First up, Lindsey Graham (R-NC) lay the groundwork for the rest of the afternoon. Turning away from the judge, he fixed his pole axe on his Democratic colleagues.

“This is the most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics and if you really wanted to know the truth, you sure as hell wouldn’t have done what you’ve done to this guy!”

His target was his friend, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who bore the brunt of accusations that she held back Ford’s accusation until after Kavanaugh’s first hearing finished.
At long last, the combatants dismissed Ford and Kavanaugh, the proxies for the war between the statesmen. The Repubs were in high dudgeon over the Dems’ treatment of Kavanaugh, and the Dems were tacitly taking their revenge for their rivals’ dismissal of Merrick Garland in 2016 – and for a bagful of other indignities and slights.

The public got to see what kind of shit show we’ve enabled in the halls of government. Blame everybody — we’ve demanded winner-take-all politics, and now we have it. The Democrats led by former Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) set this in motion by eliminating the filibuster in connection with judicial appointments below the Supreme Court level This reduced the vote to a simple majority. When Mitch McConnell (R-TN) extended the rule to Supreme Court confirmation, the nuclear option, the stage was set for extreme appointees who did not require bipartisan support.

In 2016 Merrick Garland was put forward by Barack Obama, a centrist judge who previously had garnered the approval of both parties. He did this to dare the Republican house to gamble on the outcome of the presidential election.  McConnell, in complete control of the Senate, refused even to consider his nomination, rolling the dice that, if Clinton had won, he could always activate Garland’s nomination. With Trump in the White House and a Republican majority in the Senate, McConnell has been rolling sevens, judicially speaking. The Democrats, outmaneuvered, lament lifting the filibuster in the first place.

Dick Durbin (D-IL) had predicted in January that ending the filibuster would be the “end of the Senate,” as we know it. Yesterday, he lamented that his prediction had come true.

“It’s interesting, a Republican senator this morning in the gym raised the same question with me. And I said, ‘I think we’re learning our lesson here.’ That eliminating the filibuster on the Supreme Court at least, and maybe the other federal positions, has really created a much more political process. It is better for us to move toward with something that is bipartisan and try to find more moderate people to serve on our federal judiciary.”

Good luck with that. It’s a great aspiration but no one in this Senate presently will lead the institution out of its quagmire. So much needs to be unwound to return to lower-case d democracy in our politics. The Senate and House must reclaim their preeminent places in our government, and the imperial presidency, begun long before Trump, must be contained. These changes require the Supreme Court to recognize congressional primacy, and Brett Kavanaugh won’t let that happen — unless his puppeteer loses the White House.

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