Republican Senator Mitch McConnell has always excelled at partisanship, but his most recent remark should clinch his enshrinement in the hypocrites hall of fame.
Ensconced in the safety of Paducah, Kentucky where the welcoming waters of the Ohio and Tennessee rivers meet, the Senate Majority leader was asked a question at a town hall meeting; a question that delighted and elicited that indelible smirky smile.
Asked what he would do if a Supreme Court vacancy became available in 2020, McConnell answered like he was bringing in the milk from the porch, “Oh, we’d fill it.”
It doesn’t take some arcane knowledge of civics to recognize the utter hypocrisy in that statement.
“When Mr. McConnell denied Judge Merrick B. Garland,” The New York Times writes (May 29), “Mr. Obama’s choice to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, a hearing in 2016, the senator cited election-year ‘tradition’ going back to 1880 in keeping the seat open until a new president could be inaugurated.”
This tower of historic tradition and principle said, “The American people are perfectly capable of having their say on this issue, so let’s give them a voice.” McConnell said this was “about a principle, not a person.”
“Of Course Mitch McConnell Is Full of Shit,” Rolling Stone’s May 29 headline read.
At a luncheon in his home state, McConnell explained that while a president can undue current legislation, “What can’t be undone,” he said, “is a lifetime appointment to a young man or woman who believes in the quaint notion that the job of a judge is to follow the law. That’s the most important thing we’ve done for the country, which cannot be undone.”
Note the words, “the quaint notion that the job of a judge is to follow the law”; (a concept wholly unknown to McConnell.)
McConnell plainly suggests that some appointments to the High Court don’t follow the law, quaint or not.
The Senate Majority Leader might want to reacquaint himself with a little history on the subject. According to HistoryNet:
Louis Brandeis (nominated by Woodrow Wilson)
“Fellow Justice William O. Douglas said Brandeis ‘was dangerous not just because of his brilliance, his arithmetic, his courage. He was dangerous because he was incorruptible.’ Indeed, it was Brandeis’ willingness to think beyond the status quo that made him such a prescient figure on the Court. His dissenting opinions, particularly in cases involving freedom of speech and the right to privacy, would later become the majority positions of the Court. In Olmstead v. United States…”
Hugo Black (nominated by Franklin Roosevelt)
“… wrote the landmark decision in Gideon v. Wainwright (1963), which established that states must provide an attorney to an indigent defendant. Black defied easy categorization as either a conservative or a liberal, but he brought a profound clarity to his constitutional interpretation of cases that continue to have a dramatic impact on both law and American politics.”
William Brennan (a Democrat, nominated by Republican Dwight Eisenhower)
Among his notable cases: “New York Times v. Sullivan (1964) established the constitutional standard for defamation of public officials. Baker v. Carr (1962) enabled federal courts to protect individual voting rights by intervening in the reapportionment of electoral districts, [An issue still being litigated today.] Malloy v. Hogan (1964) extended a defendant’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to state courts.”
Thurgood Marshall (nominated by Lyndon Johnson)
As an attorney for the NAACP, Marshall helped win Brown v. Board of Education, in which the Supreme Court ended racial segregation in public schools.
As the country’s first African American justice, Marshall “brought a deep sense of social justice to the Court’s deliberations…”
Joseph Story (member of both parties)
“In United States v. Amistad (1841) … he bolstered the abolitionist movement by ruling that the transport of a group of Africans across the Atlantic was illegal and the slaves should be freed.”
Those justices and more, are just a few examples of individuals who brought thoughtful legal reasoning and discernment to the highest court in the land.
History will long remember the decisions made by these men of character appointed to the Supreme Court, while Mitch McConnell, to borrow a phrase from John McCain, will be relegated to “the ash heap of history.”