The ELEPHANT in the Room
The temporarily final Republican debate in Houston last night has come and gone and we look forward to a sorting out, a quieting down, some heavy-duty thinking by the Republican electorate.
Who actually won the evening matters little. For our money, we thought Marco Rubio was too cute by half, with his quintet of “He thinks foreign policy is a real estate deal!” followed by big smiles acknowledging how clever and bright he was, like a small child who has successfully said his single line in a school pageant and then stands listening for the cheers and applause of his family members. The other half of Rubio’s performance was standard: well-reasoned, well-spoken, and well-rehearsed. He will not only live on to fight another day, but most probably will live on to run again in four years, or in eight.
The big disappointment to some of us was that the presence of the ELEPHANT in the room was unacknowledged. Not the symbol of the GOP. But rather the presence on stage, AND among the moderators/questioners, of a basic, deeply important feature of our democracy that clearly was on no one’s mind but should have been.
Among the moderators, radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt had the best and most enduring opportunity to puncture the thick skin of the party.
But also guilty were both Senators and Governor Kasich.
These three putative “conservative” candidates had all taken an oath, at one time or another, to defend the Constitution of the United States.
Ted Cruz grabbed for the heavy mantle of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, threw it over his shoulders, and completely disappeared in its folds.
Cruz, the self-proclaimed “expert” on Constitutional law, took his oath a scant three years ago on becoming a senator. Marco Rubio did the same. Even John Kasich, in his long history, had taken the same oath over and over again both in Washington and in Ohio.
Mr. Trump and Dr. Carson, unelected, never had to make the same promise.
Mr. Hewitt, a conservative commentator, certainly (and purposely, we believe) let the moment pass.
In publicly mourning the passing of Scalia, who was – let it be said, just one of tens of Supreme Court nominees who during Senate hearings promise to uphold the Constitution, and swear he is a strict constructionist who will not legislate from the bench (but who, of course, did) – a moment in the debate arrived when Hewitt certainly, if not someone else, should have pointed out that the Elephant in the room was not Mr. Trump but rather Senator Mitch McConnell who has as recently as a few months ago re-upped this oath and now has decided to ignore it altogether for partisan advantage.
The second article in the US Constitution states clearly and unambiguously that the President SHALL appoint Supreme Court justices and that the Senate SHALL provide advice and consent to his choice, i.e., vote a nominee in or off the court.
Mr. McConnell’s flat statement that he would neither meet with nor hear a nominee in any kind of Supreme Court Senate vetting process is completely unconstitutional. Period. It’s that simple.
No one in Houston chose to mention this dereliction of sworn duty.
It’s certainly possible that the manner and method of Mr. Trump’s campaigning has made following rules of behavior unlikely or indeed impossible. Mr. Trump is winning. Mr. McConnell wants to win even more.
So — Scalia’s robe lies in an unoccupied heap in the middle of D.C. and no doubt will for the next eight months until and unless the Democrats pick it up and point out that it is unoccupied and that this is a violation, and a serious one, of the oath office takers perforce make on assuming office. In our dreams, McConnell and his posse could all be sued and recalled.
This sleazy maneuver seems endemic to this year’s politics. We can probably trace it to the wondrous fiction that all Americans are “exceptional” people and are free to do and say whatever they want. Whether ignoring government oversight of grazing rights in the far West, or believing (and saying so) that “Black lives matter,” US citizens have taken action into their own hands, exhausted by waiting for justice and understanding from a federal government enmeshed in nets cast by Big Money. Not every public demonstration of anger and impatience and disgust is unhealthy or unconstitutional. But we seem to have reached a point in our history where there is no one secure enough, balanced enough, trusted enough to understand the deep discontents and divides in our population, and to make an effort to meld once again “E Pluribus unum”…one out of many.
And that, folks, is whom we need to elect in the fall.