By The Signal Editorial Board
You almost have to wonder if Vince Lombardi would be proud of what American politics has become. After all, when it comes to matters involving Republicans and Democrats, winning truly is the only thing.
At least, that’s how it all too often seems to be. Even the most noble of political newcomers get sucked into the swamp when they go to Washington. Once you get there, even if you have the best of intentions, party leadership browbeats you until you toe the party line — not for the good of America, but for the good of the party.
By way of example, let’s just look at the two most recent vacancies on the U.S. Supreme Court, and how filling them has been politicized by both parties.
In 2016, on the heels of the February death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, President Obama promptly nominated Merrick Garland to succeed Scalia, a conservative who had been appointed by President Reagan.
“Widely regarded as a moderate, Garland had been praised in the past by many Republicans, including influential senators such as Orrin Hatch of Utah,” news analyst Ron Elving wrote for NPR in June this year. “But even before Obama had named Garland, and in fact only hours after Scalia’s death was announced, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared any appointment by the sitting president to be null and void.”
In other words, Obama’s nominee was a non-starter, rejected without so much as a perfunctory hearing, solely on the basis that Obama had less than a year left in his term.
The Republicans weren’t motivated by what was “right.” They were motivated by the big W:
By leaving the seat vacant until after the election, they rolled the dice that the next president would be a Republican and the end result would be a more conservative appointee.
Later, after President Trump took office, he appointed Neil Gorsuch.
Fast forward to summer 2018, and Trump has nominated Brett Kavanaugh to replace Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired July 31.
The Democrats aren’t in a position to unilaterally delay the appointment until after the next presidential election, but with a hotly contested midterm election coming up Nov. 6, they have been in “stall” mode from the get-go. If you watched the opposition to Kavanaugh’s nomination mount, it almost seemed as if congressional Democrats had hammered out their talking points before even knowing who the nominee would be.
Just fill in the blank!
Then, as the torturous proceeding of Kavanaugh’s Senate confirmation hearing was winding down and a confirmation vote was potentially just a week away, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein dropped a bombshell she had been sitting on for a month and a half: The letter Feinstein had received from Christine Blasey Ford alleging that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her in the early 1980s while they were both in high school.
Are the allegations true? It’s conceivable that they are, and it’s conceivable that they are not. Proving it one way or the other, all these years later, would be difficult.
What seems obvious, though, is that the timing of the release of the information — and subsequent calls for an FBI investigation, which apparently wouldn’t even have jurisdiction for a case such as this, particularly with the statute of limitations expired — are stall tactics designed to draw out the Kavanaugh question as long as possible.
As of this writing, the situation remains fluid and may even have changed by now. But rest assured: Whatever happens between now and the swearing-in of either Kavanaugh or some other nominee, the Republicans and the Democrats will be less focused on doing the right thing than they will be on “winning.”
For them, it’s the only thing.