Science Fiction: Creating an Abstraction
There are a lot of reasons today why many Americans, in their quiet moments, shake their heads and grieve. It’s more than the chaos surrounding the fight for the Republican nomination. It’s more than the near certainty that at an open convention, the Republicans will manage to offend each other and most of the rest of the nation and sink further into the sea.
We are currently witnessing the fading of a human being, a man whose outlines are rapidly being erased, a man who in the end will become not a man as he is, but a man as a cipher, a man as a symbol.
In effect, this man is being zapped into oblivion through very little fault of his own. He is being used, by Republicans and Democrats alike, even by the President, as an acid test of Congressional sentiment, of Congressional willingness to defy the US Constitution. He is, in effect, being “un-created.”
This is not a simple, short process. It may take months before the outline of Merrick Garland disappears from our consciousness. He has allowed himself to be placed at the left hand of one senator, or two, at a time. He says nothing. He smiles. His head is held stable and high, and with good reason. He has worked all of his life trying to do good things, do the right things. He has been close to grabbing the gold ring but twice before it has been snatched from his grasp at the last minute. Why? Because he has been “slotted” to fill a role only if and when needed, not because he can fill that role with dignity and purpose.
That Garland could in fact be a formidable Justice on the Supreme Court matters not.
He’s been proposed for that position for a purpose: to embarrass the Republicans, to beat them at the polls in November, to shore up the Democratic sense of what the Constitution provides, to take a chair at the banque and actually be a place-holder for some other yet to be named, yet even to be identified, Supreme Court nominee named by a succeeding president. That he gets to keep that chair for a dozen years, say, is all well and good but little is expected of him but acquiescence.
He is, by all reports, a careful solid thinker, a determined friend and ally. Just the sort of man people like to imagine at their back in a fire-fight. A former Federal prosecutor (the home-grown Oklahoman terrorist’s scourge) who is both sensible and sympathetic yet determined that justice should be seen to be done. As a Federal judge, even-handed and thoughtful and unafraid. To become that, he has already been approved by the US Senate overwhelmingly.
As a nominee to the Federal circuit court bench, he was able to convince the Senate of his good will, his judicial philosophies, his courage.
And of course he has been able to convince President Obama of the same qualities.
Now, as nominee for the Supreme Court, he is being used not because the President thinks highly of him, but rather because the Senate has already thought highly of him and would be abashed to have to refuse him his reward of continuing service to the country.
Merrick Garland could be called “Joe Smith.” The result would be the same. What and who he is don’t count. What does is that he has allowed himself to be placed in an untenable position for a most cynical purpose. For voters who think the President is weak, let this be noted: Obama is as cruel and heartless and cynical as any other self-interested politician.
What makes matters worse is that Garland obviously believes in hard work, in rewarding meritorious service, in the American dream. Which explains for many his nervous emotional state at his announcement in the Rose Garden. What a man who believes in America has been working for is being offered him, but not really. He’s only a tool to help the President make a point. Make several points.
Believing, as we suspect he does, in the goodness and probity of his President, Garland stood outside the White House having reached the pinnacle of a great career only to be diminished in the eyes of his nation as having been foolish enough to believe in the dream.
How a man as accomplished as he is could be persuaded to play the dunce by a smooth-talking dude with an agenda can only be explained by another great American talent: hope.
If by chance he should actually be approved sometime in the coming months, you can bet that there will be no harder working, no more dedicated servant of the law. That is his only hope and revenge. It is only by being approved that Garland can reassume his earthly form, not to mention his own self-respect and sense of purpose. It’s a hundred to one shot, but he’s taking it.
As for Mitch McConnell, a painful old age is too easy a punishment.