A reassuring fact about the U.S. Supreme Court

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Just to help everybody calm down a little:

I’m not saying that a court vacancy isn’t an important thing. Of course it is. It means we’ll be choosing one-ninth of one of the three branches of our federal government, and for life. It’s critical that we find a qualified jurist with deep understanding of the law — like the ones already on the court. As evidenced by all those 9-0 decisions. There are no idiots on this court, no justices who fail to see the law clearly, just as the others do. Consensus is most common result.

From what I’ve seen, Neil Gorsuch is such a person. So, from everything I read. Was Merrick Garland. Yes, Democrats, you had every reason to be outraged at what McConnell did. To refuse even to consider a sitting president’s nominee was a gross dereliction of duty, an insult to the Constitution. It was the grossest partisan action I’ve seen the Congress take in many a year. The senators were free to reject Garland upon consideration — in fact, it would have been their duty to do so had they found him unqualified. But no one even suggested he was unqualified (because, to our knowledge, he was not). They simply refused to consider him. That was a profound sin against our republic, one that stains the reputation of everyone involved in the refusal forever.

This — Kennedy’s retirement — should have been Gorsuch’s turn to be considered.

All of that is the case. But I just can’t get as worked up about the situation as both sides seem to be — the right with excitement at the enormity of their opportunity, the left with horror at the impending disaster.

For one thing, this area seems to be the only one in which Donald J. Trump doesn’t go with his own twisted instincts. He left the choice of Gorsuch over people who actually know something about such things. Of course, they are people who will put forth potential nominees that the left would not. But they will put forth qualified individuals.

My greatest concern is that Trump — who has been more and more off the leash lately — will do so over this as well, and ignore the advice of the people who know better than he does. I don’t think that will happen, if only because of the way his warped ego works: He has received a great deal of praise — which he values disproportionately — over the Gorsuch decision, so I think he’ll stick with the process that gave him that “triumph.”

I know that nothing I can say will diminish the anxiety of people whose focus is entirely on the relatively small number of 5-4 decisions — especially my friends who, unlike me, think Roe v. Wade was a wonderful thing, to cite one issue that many think is in the balance here (which I sort of doubt, but I can’t say for sure).

But it would be a wonderful thing for the republic if folks on both ends of the spectrum could calm down. These vacancies have distorted our politics far, far more than enough.

Many cycles ago, this one small part of the job description, which usually arises only once or twice in a term, started having far too great an impact on voters’ decision-making. Think about it: We wouldn’t have Trump in the White House if not for all the religious conservatives who would never, ever have considered such a crude, vulgar, amoral person to be their chief magistrate except for one thing — the kind of justices they expected him to nominate, in contrast to the ones Hillary Clinton might have named.

So we have a guy who daily seeks new ways to alienate our allies and cozy up to dictators, a man enamored of trade wars, who pursues grossly immoral, cruel policies on our border, deliberately increases polarization in the electorate and stirs hatred against our critical institutions, from our justice system to the free press. Of course, I could go on, but you would think that list would be enough to suggest that picking a president on the basis of that one thing, judicial nomination, is a terrible and reckless course of action.

But far too many on the right do just that. And so do too many on the left.

I don’t know how we get to where everybody puts this in perspective again. But one place we might start is by considering that fact that the most likely result is that the Court will decide matters 9-0. That ought to have a calming effect. Not that I’m holding my breath…

The Roberts Court, June 1, 2017.  Seated, from left to right: Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Anthony M. Kennedy, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justices Clarence Thomas and Stephen G. Breyer.  Standing, from left to right: Justices Eleana Kagan, Samuel A. Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, and Neil M. Gorsuch.  Photograph by Franz Jantzen, Supreme Court Curator's Office.

The Roberts Court, June 1, 2017. Seated, from left to right: Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Anthony M. Kennedy, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justices Clarence Thomas and Stephen G. Breyer. Standing, from left to right: Justices Eleana Kagan, Samuel A. Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, and Neil M. Gorsuch. Photograph by Franz Jantzen, Supreme Court Curator’s Office.

32 thoughts on “A reassuring fact about the U.S. Supreme Court

  1. bud

    So we have a guy who daily seeks new ways to alienate our allies and cozy up to dictators, a man enamored of trade wars, who pursues grossly immoral, cruel policies on our border, deliberately increases polarization in the electorate and stirs hatred against our critical institutions, from our justice system to the free press.
    -Brad

    I would maintain that his base voted for him BECAUSE of those things. Of course they wouldn’t put it that way. Take the trade wars. They would say Trump is finally standing up to the unfair trade practices by other countries.

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yep, they would — speaking of the most ardent parts of his base… but the religious conservatives, not so much. I think a lot of those folks would be put off by some of those things, and not have a position on some of the others. But they know where they stand on abortion, and they felt like he would nominate justices they like, and that overrode everything.

      And that’s a huge problem. Single-issue voting is a huge problem for the whole country…

      Reply
      1. bud

        Brad you really need need to catch up to the reality of the situation. 90% of Republicans, including evangelicals, support Trump. Granted, the GOP is losing a few from it’s neocon wing hence a smaller percentage of the population identifies as Republican. But remainder are not singe issue voters. Many aren’t even issue voters at all, they just love the man. They can’t be shamed, or reasoned with. They probably can’t even name a supreme court justice or tell you any reasonable fact about healthcare, the national debt, tax policy, unemployment, military and foreign policy issues, the environment or really anything substantive. Trump supporters are driven by his personality. It is just amazing how completely the Republican party has turned into a cult. To deny this new reality is to give tacit support to Trump.

        Reply
        1. Scout

          I’m not sure that’s true for Evangelicals. I think it pretty much was the supreme court thing for them, based on personal experiences with my own family members – so at least in some cases. The family separation thing made even Franklin Graham voice disapproval with the President, which he heretofore had not done. So some of them maybe do have their limits. The supreme court coming back into the fore has probably now made them all forget those reservations again, sadly.

          Reply
          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Yep.

            It’s a huge mistake to confuse the minority of voters who “just love the man” with the people who put him over the top in 2016 — the ones who were either single-issue voters on the Court or some other issue, and those who just hated Hillary Clinton SO much that they voted for him as a protest (assuming she’s win).

            Without those voters, he would have gotten creamed. And Bud wanting to hate all GOP voters equally because, to him, THEY’RE ALL EXACTLY ALIKE! doesn’t change the facts. And such self-deception is self-defeating for anyone who’d like to see the situation change in subsequent elections…

            Reply
            1. bud

              It’s just a fact that 90% of self identified Republicans approve of the job Trump is doing as POTUS. That’s not hating on anyone that’s just acknowledging the truth.

              Reply
              1. Claus2

                90% of Democrats stand behind Maxine Waters.

                See I can make up statistics and state because I said it that they are credible too.

                Reply
              2. Brad Warthen Post author

                And that’s sort of what I was telling Claus in this other comment.

                But… you understand, don’t you, that there’s a big difference between most Republicans clicking on “approve” rather than “disapprove” — with many of them doing so defensively not because they like him, because they think the criticism of Trump goes overboard — and Republicans who “love” the guy.

                They couldn’t be more wrong in believing criticism of Trump goes too far — probably the biggest cognitive problem in the country today is the large number of people who simply DO NOT GET the fact that Trump is a uniquely unfit president, with no close comparison in all our history (you see this in people who reveal their lack of perception by saying, “Aw, you just don’t LIKE the guy; we get it!”) — but that’s what they believe.

                So even when they themselves have problems with him, they tend to feel defensive of him….

                Reply
        2. Doug Ross

          “They probably can’t even name a supreme court justice or tell you any reasonable fact about healthcare, the national debt, tax policy, unemployment, military and foreign policy issues, the environment or really anything substantive. ”

          You’ve just described the typical American voter.

          Reply
        3. Claus2

          “90% of Republicans, including evangelicals, support Trump”

          What percentage of Democrats supported Hillary? Or is this one of those 90% of statistics are correct 73% of the time statistics?

          Reply
          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Claus, while Bud is wrong in his analysis, I think you’re failing to understand what he’s saying.

            He’s using the present tense. He’s saying that — while many, many of them wanted someone else (anyone else) to be their nominee in 2016 — today they will defend this guy to the bitter end.

            So, he’s talking about 2018, not 2016. So, once again, it’s a complete non sequitur to bring up that Hillary Clinton person…

            Reply
            1. Claus2

              Okay, so change “Hillary Clinton” to “Nancy Pelosi”, better? Since she’s the #2 candidate for 2020 right now it seems that she still has a lot of support out there, the only Democrat in front of her is Joe Biden.

              Reply
              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                That’s a scary thought.

                Of course, I like Joe. I’ve always liked Joe. He rates very high on my Joe-ness Meter, right behind Riley and Lieberman. He was my favorite Democrat (although I didn’t like him as much as McCain, of course) leading up to the 2008 election, until he dropped out. I wanted him to run in 2016. I don’t blame him for not doing it, with having recently lost his son, and you know he KNEW that the fight against Hillary, with all her fans feeling it was HER TURN, would have been brutal.

                Yep he’ll be really old in 2020, and I’d like to see some younger candidates emerge. But I would not vote “no” to Joe if he were out there running…

                Reply
                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  That’s one of many views I have in common with James Smith, by the way — he wanted Joe in 2016, not Hillary. And Joe was my favorite candidate who did NOT run that year. (My favorite who DID run was John Kasich.)

                  And of course, one of the things I agree with Joe about is that he and I both support James Smith. That’s one of James’ positive qualities — there are different kinds of Democrats, and he’s a Biden one rather than a Clinton one…

                2. Richard

                  Would you trust him to hug your wife or daughter? You might be safer letting Bill Clinton hug them.

                  Maybe the Democrats can run a Kennedy, that’s always been the old standby strategy.

                3. Richard

                  “Joe’s a character, all right. ”

                  That’s funny, Joe gropes someone and he’s a “character”, Trump gropes someone and people are screaming “rape”.

                4. Barry

                  Joe Biden is like Papa Bush- from another era and they both Have a reputation for being too touch freely with women.

                  republicans covered for bush. some Dems cover for Biden. trump is a different level.

                  Trump bragged about committing adultery

                  trump bragged publicly about walking through a dressing room where teen girls (many under age 18) were changing clothes, some admitting they were nude.

                  Trump bragged about trying to sleep with Nancy Odell while he was married, and while she was married. She rebuffed him. 2 years later he tried to get her fired from her hosting role with the Miss USA pageant but NBC executives wouldn’t budge.

                  trump bragged about grabbing women by the…..

                  Trump has been accused of assaulting many women.

                5. Doug Ross

                  Bill Clinton had sex with an intern in the Oval Office while married and lied about it. I’m of the opinion that Trump did half as much as he said he did and Clinton did twice as much as has been rumored. People voted for Trump and Clinton knowing what they were beforehand.

                6. Brad Warthen Post author

                  We’ve got it, Doug. You think Trump is OK, and no different from any other politician you’ve ever seen, other than Ron and Rand Paul…

                7. Doug Ross

                  I didn’t vote for him and won’t vote for him. At the same time, I haven’t spent the last year and a half in a tizzy. He’s done some good things and some not so good things. His style offends many people — especially those who aren’t used to “how they do things up North”. He is not unlike plenty of New Yorkers I’ve known all my life.

                  But all we hear about is a comment he made to Billy Bush more than a decade ago. But we can’t bring up Hillary Clinton because she’s ancient history.

                8. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Oh, he’s done a great deal since then. The Billy Bush thing only came up because someone was comparing Joe Biden to him, which is ridiculous…

                  Hillary Clinton, however, has not. She’s history. And to me, not very interesting history…

  2. Richard

    I had to laugh when I read this today… “This is the best season of The Apprentice ever!!!”

    Reply
      1. Richard

        Sorry, I forgot you’re the crusty old ex-editor who has no time for a sense of humor as long as “agent orange” as bud put it is in office.

        Reply

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