Thank You Very Much, McConnell

“Thank you very much!
Thank you very much!
That’s the nicest thing that anyone’s ever done for me.”

This song, written by Leslie Bricusse for the movie “Scrooge” (1970), is sung when Dickens’ character sees a vision from the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come of the people who owe Scrooge money celebrating at the sight of his coffin.

A fictional scene, this was played out for real just this past week when the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died and within hours U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that a new nominee for the high court would be voted on before the important November presidential election.

As a voter who is not affiliated with any political party, I wish to express my deepest disdain for McConnell and his ilk for not waiting until her body was cold—or at least until the first night of Rosh Hashanah concluded.

It is also hypocritical that back in 2016 when former Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia passed away in February, 9 months ahead of that election, Republicans refused to hold hearings for a new nominee to fill his empty seat even though President Obama chose Merrick Garland, a judge who normally Republicans would have supported. 

With less than 7 weeks ahead of this year’s election, why the flip-flop?  Because their “guy” is in the Oval Office.  That is what the whole thing is about.  Politics.  Playground bullying done by old white men who are supposed to serve the American people no matter which party they belong to.

Unfortunately, Americans should not be surprised at the lack of civility in Washington, D.C.  I’m not sure when bipartisanship disappeared, but for those of you younger than 50, take a look at some YouTube videos of President Ronald Reagan.

Watch his self-deprecating humor at a 1984 debate with Democratic nominee Walter Mondale.  When running for re-election, Reagan’s age (73) was being used against him, and so he was asked to respond to the criticism.   He quipped, “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”  

This generated a huge laugh even from Mondale.   When can you remember two politicians from different parties sharing a hearty laugh together like this in the past 40 years?

The acrimony that political leaders exhibit these days is reflected in the general population.  Again, YouTube has plenty of evidence showing regular folks acting very badly in public.

There is a feeling in America that people lack common ground, that differences far outweigh similarities.  Our neighbors have become strangers.

Here’s hoping sooner than later that this country finds its footing again, and that no matter one’s politics, ethnicity or Netflix preferences, we can stand together as a united nation.

Otherwise, Russia, China and other foes will be dancing on the coffin of the United States singing, “Thank you very much” to the Americans who helped its demise.

Cranky Kavanaugh Not Suited to be a Supreme Court Judge

By the time you read this, more likely than not Brett Kavanaugh will have become the 114th Supreme Court justice in American history.  Next to the 45 presidents, it is the second most exclusive job one can hold.  And unlike presidents, justices’ jobs are for life.

The controversy over his confirmation concerning alleged sexual misconduct from his high school and college days has underscored the divisions among political parties and the public.

For me the issue isn’t the alleged sexual assault.  It isn’t even the decisions he has made as a federal judge.  It was his histrionic performance at last week’s Senate judiciary hearing.  He wasn’t just angry, he was furious; he wasn’t just defiant, he was combative; he wasn’t just teary, he was red-in-the-face near full-out balling.   And remember, he was exhibiting these emotions reading from prepared remarks, not speaking extemporaneously.  Are these the traits of a Supreme Court justice who needs to be measured and reasonable when deciding cases?

Someone with the temperament of Kavanaugh should not be a judge, especially on the Supreme Court, one of the most hallowed government institutions.

Of course, the same could be said about Trump regarding the presidency.   He has drained the office of all decorum.  Is it any surprise that he chose a less-than-stellar candidate for the Court?

Too bad that the confirmation vote was delayed a week because all it served to do was to give those Republicans on the fence—Jeff Flake of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska—a “the FBI could not find corroboration” excuse to vote for him.   The whole delay was an agonizing tease for those who did not want a justice with an asterisk by his name like Clarence Thomas.  Now for the next 30 years or so we will have a judge who could have assaulted a woman.

When my students study characters in literature, we talk about how all of us have different sides to our personalities.  It is very possible that Kavanaugh has many positive sides to him.   The problem is that there is a darker side to his character.  We should expect those nine people who serve this country on the Supreme Court bench to be of the highest moral fiber.   Kavanaugh’s demeanor last week should have sealed his fate.

It didn’t.

In this age of Trump, the decency bar continues to sink lower.

We have a president who ridiculed Prof. Christine Blasey Ford at a rally, with the crowd encouraging him to continue.

Trump could care less about the twisted optics of his mockery of a sexual assault victim, even as he stands accused of sexual misconduct himself.

More disturbing were the people laughing at his insulting behavior.

Based on his resume, Kavanaugh looked like a cinch for the Court.  He declared it as such in his remarks last week.  Like a spoiled brat, he assumed that coming from a wealthy family, attending the right schools, and working for the right powerful people meant he could walk right through the doors to the Supreme Court Building.  And he may yet do it.

If he is confirmed, he should remember these words:

“To be a good judge . . . it’s important to have the proper demeanor . . . to keep our emotions in check.  To be calm amidst the storm.”

He should remember them because he said them back in 2015.  So just who is the real Judge Kavanaugh?