Sound and Fury

Photograph Source: The White House/Shealah Craighead – Public Domain

The four days of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings to affirm the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court produced lots of sound and fury signifying everything.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, with Donald Trump as his crowbar, opened the way to Barrett’s hearings in possibly one of the most hypocritical acts of his career. He denied a hearing to President Barack Obama’s court nominee in 2016, arguing the people should choose in an election year. He pulled a Judas.

The people’s choice, if life were fair, should go to the winner of the Nov. 3 election, which may not be Trump. But power is as power does. And if Joe Biden becomes president, it will be in his power to expand the Supreme Court.

He said he would decide whether to do that and tell the before the election because the people have a right to know.

“Y’all have a good chance at winning the White House,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, D-S.C., Judiciary chair. Biden is leading Trump in both national and some battleground state polls.

Graham set a committee vote on Barrett’s nomination for Thursday. McConnell hinted at a full Senate confirmation vote Oct. 27. With Republican’s having a 53-vote majority, the judge is a likely shoe-in.

“We have the votes,” McConnell said.

With Barrett the opposite of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whom she would replace, the court would have a 6-3 conservative majority, a long held cherished conservative goal.

That puts at risk such liberal hallmarks as Obamacare, which the court is to discuss next month, same-sex marriage, Roe v. Wade and any legislation on voting rights, racial justice, immigration and environmental regulation.

We could wind up living in a Handmaid’s tale, creating far more polarization than we have now under Trump: Trumpism squared. It would set the country back at least two generations, returning to the 1973 Roe decision.

The sound of the hearings was muffled because the public never got to know Barrett’s position on major issues. She successfully dodged the most rudimentary questions even a high schooler could answer, like whether it’s legal to intimidate a voter.

“I can’t apply the law to a hypothetical set of facts,” she replied to that question. C’mon.

Or whether a president has the authority to delay an election. Barrett responded with the need to consult with others when she easily could have said no, only Congress can do that. Totally unnecessary obfuscation.

But the worst of her refusal to respond faithfully to questions was on climate change. For her, it doesn’t seem to exist. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., tried.

“Do you believe that climate change is happening and threatening the air we breathe and the water we drink?” she asked.

Barrett waved it off, saying she doesn’t want to give an opinion “on a very contentious matter of public debate.”

“I will not do that,” she said. “I will not express a view on a matter of public policy, especially one that is politically controversial.”

So much for climate change, which drastically will impact our children’s and grandchildren’s future. A conservative court could further deregulate laws affecting the environment and conservation.

Trump may have put Barrett in a box by stating repeatedly that he would depend on her and other conservatives on the Supreme Court to back him if he challenged the results of the election there.

Therefore, the judge was asked whether she would recuse herself from such a case. But she avoided the question by pivoting to hoping the committee has “confidence in my integrity.” But a Washington Post editorial Oct. 14 noted her integrity wasn’t the issue but, rather, her fealty to Trump.

“Mr. Trump has essentially said he wants her confirmation rushed through before the election so the court can deliver for him after,” it said.

Trump has tweeted that killing the Affordable Care Act “Would be a big WIN for the USA.” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., hopped on that and asked Barrett if she thought the president meant what he said.

“I can’t really speak to what the president said on Twitter,” she replied. “He hasn’t said any of that to me. What I can tell you . . . is that no one has elicited any commitment in any case or even brought up a commitment in a case. I am 100 percent committed to judicial independence from political pressure.”

We’ll see, as Trump likes to say.

As for fury, the loudest came from committee member Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. Displaying posters, he said $250 million in “dark money” and “special interests” have been at play in a presumably conservative cause to overturn activist decisions.

“The Republican party platform tells us to look at how they want judges to rule to reverse Roe, to reverse Obamacare cases and to reverse Obergefell and take away gay marriage. That is their stated objective and plan,” he said. “Why not take them at their word?”

Whitehouse may have referred to past GOP platforms because the goal this year is to do what Trump wants.

Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East and was foreign editor of United Press International, served as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.