Monday, September 21, 2020

A Man Is Only As Good As His Word? So How Do Closet Cases, Like Lindsey Graham Survive In Electoral Politics?



I'm gay. When I realized it, I was living in Amsterdam. I went to a psychologist and told him. He looked at me oddly and said, basically, "So? You need me to give you the addresses of gay bars?" Then I flew to the U.S., for my first visit back home in 4 years, to tell my mother. Her response was to tell me I couldn't borrow her wigs. Years later my first corporate job was working for a gay man. My sexuality never held back my career and I rose to be president of the parent company. I'm glad I never went down the closet road. People in closets live a life reflexively and usually increasingly dishonest. They lie about who they are, what they are and, eventually, about everything and start living a life where serial dishonestly becomes the essence of being, more so than any semblance of honesty. It's the slipperiest of slopes to start down and so, so tragic for so many people.

It's the slope poor Lindsey Graham felt he had to go down if he was going to be a successful politician in South Carolina. And, his life has been one gigantic lie, both professionally and personally. "Everyone knows" and even colleagues and acquaintances who find him likable, simpatico and amusing, all tend to pity him. And now it may be catching up with him politically, as an unlikely Democratic opponent has him locked in a what should be an easy reelection campaign but is basically tied and too close to call.

On Saturday, Washington Post reporters Sean Sullivan and Seung Min Kim wrote that 4 and a half years ago Lindsey "sat across a conference table from his colleagues and issued them a dare. 'I want you to use my words against me,' said Graham, a South Carolina Republican with a flair for drama. Pointing with his index finger, Graham continued: 'If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.' On Saturday, Graham was singing a different tune, pledging support for President Trump in 'any effort to move forward regarding the recent vacancy created by the passing of Justice Ginsburg.' The stark turnabout from 2016 marked the latest chapter in Graham’s dramatic reinvention of himself during the Trump presidency, morphing from an old-school Senate institutionalist and bipartisan dealmaker into a stalwart soldier for the president’s agenda."

Democrats and other opponents of The Donald very much would like to take Graham up on his offer-- to hold his words against him. I don't know how effective this Lincoln Project ad will be with South Carolina voters, but I suspect someone will figure out exactly how to hold his words against him in a way that will cause him no end of political pain. After all, no one likes a liar... well, except for Republicans who apparently love liars:

"Graham," our Post duo reminded us, "is chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee charged with processing Supreme Court nominees, and he is in the midst of a competitive reelection campaign that could factor closely into the fight for control of the upper chamber. His comments Saturday, coming after less-decisive statements in the hours after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death Friday, amounted to the latest indication of how Republican leaders are rallying quickly around a strategy of seeking to fill her seat this year. That prospect has stoked widespread outrage among Senate Democrats, who are calling Republicans hypocrites for the move after blocking President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee in 2016 because they said the president chosen by voters that fall should make the pick.
“There’s no doubt everything will be sort of on the table if we’re thrown into a world where you can’t trust somebody’s word and precedents get changed at will to fit your priorities of the moment,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) said in response to Graham’s decision to align behind Trump and go back on what he said in 2016.

During Saturday’s call, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) used similar language, saying that if Senate Republicans move forward with whoever Trump nominates, “nothing is off the table for next year” should Democrats win control of the chamber. That appeared to be a reference to structural changes to the court proposed by liberal activists such as expanding the number of justices-- a proposal that has sparked some disagreements among Democrats.

Republican leaders appeared determined to press ahead swiftly to fill the court vacancy with a conservative jurist. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promised Trump during a Friday phone call that his nominee would get a vote in the Senate, according to people familiar with their conversation who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private conversation.

Trump told McConnell he liked Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit and Barbara Lagoa of the 11th Circuit, according to two people briefed on the discussion.

“We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us, the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices,” Trump wrote on Twitter Saturday. “We have this obligation, without delay!”

...Less clear is how rank-and-file Republican senators will respond, with many in tough reelection races in states where Trump is not popular. Republicans hold a 53-to-47 majority in the Senate, meaning they can afford to lose no more than three members in a confirmation vote, should the entire Democratic caucus unite against Trump's nominee.

They have already lost one.

“I do not believe that the Senate should vote on the nominee prior to the election,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who is in a tough reelection fight, said in a statement. “In fairness to the American people, who will either be re-electing the President or selecting a new one, the decision on a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court should be made by the President who is elected on November 3rd.”

Collins’s reservations contrasted sharply with the comments from Graham, who is seeking a fourth term in the Senate. The contest has been tougher than many expected in a ruby-red state Trump won easily in 2016, with recent polls showing Democrat Jaime Harrison in close competition with Graham.

Now Graham will be at the center of what will likely be one of the most contentious confirmation battles in history, affording him an opportunity to demonstrate his loyalty to Trump. But some Democrats say his position could help amplify the arguments against his reelection.

“A lot of folks miss the Lindsey of old-- and that’s why this race is so competitive,” said Steve Benjamin, the Democratic mayor of Columbia, S.C. “When it comes time to do what’s right and maybe not popular,” Benjamin said, “it can be difficult for some.”

Harrison, one of his party's fast-rising African American stars, sounded similar notes. “My grandpa always said that a man is only as good as his word. Senator Graham, you have proven your word is worthless,” he wrote on Twitter.
Writing for The Atlantic, Edward-Isaac Dovere offered a glimpse into what Republican senators are saying in private and off the record. "Whispering Republicans," as he termed them, talk about how they hate The Donald and then back him in public-- to the media and, of course, with their votes. The GOP is absolutely one of the country's two spineless, jellyfish parties. "The secretly apostate Republican senators," wrote Dovere, "have two choices: They can support a president they think is a threat to American democracy while also violating Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s invented 2016 rule about not confirming justices in an election year, or they can oppose Trump, enraging both him and their progressively cultish base while giving up what might be their last chance to secure a conservative majority for a generation."

Notice The Donald's Chamber of Commerce retweet from Sunday morning, signally he's ready for war with Alaska senior Senator Lisa Murkowski, who is not up for reelection in November and is not up for giving Trump a third Supreme Court pick.

For McConnell, this is principle versus power, and the golden rule is “Whoever has the gold makes the rules.” And it’s happening as the next generation of ambitious Republicans looks to a future in which Trumpism remains a dominant force within the party no matter what happens in November.

Don’t expect many Republicans-- even those who want to stick it to Trump-- to be direct with their commitments. “If they try to shove something through, I think you’re going to see some of these Republicans who hate Trump fall on the horrible sword of ‘This country is dangerously divided right now; the hypocrisy is horrible; if we do something like this, it will tear the country apart,’” says Joe Walsh, the former Republican representative from Illinois, who briefly ran a primary campaign against Trump that went nowhere earlier this year. Based on conversations he’s had, Walsh estimates that, of the current Republican senators, “if you put a gun to their head privately, I would say more than 40 of the 53 would like to see him lose.”

Walsh insists that Republicans didn’t want this vacancy-- not now. “This is political death for the Republicans,” he told me.

This is not the time for Republicans to insist that they haven’t “seen the latest tweet.” This is where they either will or will not give Trump the boost that he needs weeks before the election. Now, more than ever, they are either with him or against him. “This,” Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, a Democrat, said on CNN last night, “is my colleagues’ moment of reckoning.”

...Senator Joni Ernst, in a tight reelection race in Iowa, said in July that she would support a nomination process if an opening occurred. But that puts her at odds with her fellow Iowa senator, Chuck Grassley, who said in August that he couldn’t support a confirmation in an election year if he was going to be consistent with the position he took in 2016. He stood then with McConnell’s adamant refusal to give Merrick Garland a hearing after Antonin Scalia’s sudden death in 2016, though Garland was nominated nine months before Election Day. Of course, the question becomes whether Grassley will hold to his position now that the question is no longer theoretical.

...Late yesterday, I asked a former Republican House member what an anti-Trump Republican senator would do when facing a choice that sounds more out of a novel than anything Goethe might have come up with if he’d ever wandered around Capitol Hill.

“The Republican senator,” said the person, who requested anonymity to speak directly about old colleagues, “will do what they must in the name of self-preservation.”

“Guess what?” the former House member said of Graham. “He’s going to do it. You know he is. He’s up for reelection in South Carolina. He needs his base. He’ll flip on this.”

McConnell, in his Rube Goldberg–machine statement explaining why Trump’s nominee will get a vote on the floor of the Senate but Obama’s didn’t, left the door open to having a vote in a potential lame-duck session after the election.

Maybe it’ll all come down to Senator Mitt Romney, who is publicly offended by pretty much everything Trump stands for but whose spokesperson shot down rumors last night that he would oppose a confirmation before the election. Or maybe, if Mark Kelly wins his Senate race in Arizona, it will all hinge on a legal dispute over whether he would get to immediately be sworn into the seat because his opponent was appointed to it. Or maybe by then we’ll be in a country where the November 3 votes are taking weeks to count, rioters and militias are out on the streets, and, as in 2000, the election will head to the Supreme Court, which now is without a tiebreaker vote.

In 2016, from the minute he learned of Scalia’s death, Obama knew that Republicans would try to prevent him from appointing a justice and flipping the balance to a 5–4 liberal majority. He nominated Garland anyway and threw himself into the fight, daring the GOP senators to oppose a middle-of-the-road, accomplished judge whom so many had voted for in his confirmation to a lower court. Working the phones for a few senators he dreamed might buck McConnell, he pleaded with them: Don’t do this.

I remember speaking with one of the Republican senators struggling with breaking the process then. The senator, though torn, ultimately did not say anything publicly, and didn’t invite Garland in for a meeting.

Last night, Obama closed his statement mourning Ginsburg with, “As votes are already being cast in this election, Republican senators are now called to apply that standard.” Don’t hold a confirmation hearing, he said. Always an institutionalist with his eye toward history, Obama was admitting that the process breakers had won.

Now the question is, what else will Trump, the ultimate process breaker, win?

David Frum offered up 4 reasons to doubt McConnell’s power. He asked himself 4 questions:
Does McConnell really command a Senate majority?

The polls do not favor Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, or Thom Tillis--senators from Maine, Colorado, and North Carolina up for reelection this cycle. Yet these competitors may not be ready to attend their own funerals. They may regard voting against McConnell's Court grab as a heaven-sent chance to prove their independence from an unpopular president-- and to thereby save their own seats... (Martha McSally of Arizona, however, is likely a safe vote for McConnell. The deadest of the Senate's dead ducks surely must be focused on retaining national Republican support for her post-Senate career. Mitt Romney of Utah is a more open question: His strong sense of fairness will push him against confirmation; his consistent support for conservative judges will pull him in favor.)

Does McConnell really have a nominee to advance?

Any last-minute Trump nominee will face a gantlet of opposition in the Senate, a firestorm of opposition in the country, and probably a lifetime of suspicion from the majority of the country.

Can McConnell and Trump find an appointee willing to risk all that for the chance-- but not the guarantee-- of a Supreme Court seat? Specifically, can they find a woman willing to do it? The optics of replacing Ginsburg with a man may be too ugly even for the Trump administration. And if they can find a woman, can they find a woman sufficiently moderate-seeming to provide cover to anxious senators? The task may prove harder than immediately assumed.

Will Trump balk?

Until now, judicial-nomination fights have mobilized Republicans and conservatives more than Democrats and liberals. The fight McConnell proposes may upset that pattern. Trump's hopes for reelection depend on suppressing votes and discouraging participation. The last thing he needs is a highly dramatic battle that could mobilize Democrats in states including Arizona and North Carolina-- even Georgia and Texas.

The smart play for Trump is to postpone the nomination to reduce the risk of Democratic mobilization, and to warn Republicans of the risks should he lose. Trump’s people do not usually execute the smart play. They are often the victims of the hyper-ideological media they consume, which deceive them about what actually is the smart play. This time, though, they may just be desperate enough to break long-standing pattern and try something different.

Will the conservative legal establishment play ball?

The judicial status quo enormously favors conservatives. Even should Democrats win big in November, it will take many years for them to catch up to the huge Republican lead in judicial appointments. By then, who knows, the GOP may have retaken the Senate, and of course it may well find a way to hold on in 2020.

But a last-minute overreach by McConnell could seem so illegitimate to Democrats as to justify radical countermoves should they win in November: increasing the number of appellate judges and Supreme Court justices; conceivably even opening impeachment hearings against Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

McConnell may want the win badly enough to dismiss those risks. But many conservative-leaning lawyers in the country may be more cautious. And their voices will get a hearing in a contentious nomination fight-- not only by the national media, but by some of the less Trump-y Republican senators. This could be enough to slow down a process that has no time to spare.

Mitch McConnell has gotten his way so often that it’s hard to imagine he might ever lose. But the political balance of power is shifting this fall, and for once, McConnell may be on the wrong side of a power dynamic.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,


At 1:22 PM, Blogger Nick C. said...

5. Are Democrats willing to drag a woman nominee's personal life through the mud if need be, even though it would mean the GOP doing the same to a Democrat woman nominee (it will happen either way). I suggest it might. Other words this woman's personal life needs to make Pope Francis' look like hugh Hefner's

At 2:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In politics, an honest person is one who stays bought. Even Democrats believe in this, which is why they detest progressives as they do. Bribes don't work well with them.

Considering how many times Lindsey Graham as switched positions, he could write the book on Corruption Kama Sutra. Same goes for Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. They could all learn a lot from Joe Manchin, who stays loyal to the GOP no matter how many times he runs as a Democrat.

At 2:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

nodding in total agreement with the above.

Clarence Thomas is a lesson here. he's black. that's his qualification. he's stupid, extremely fascist, and he sexually harassed at least a few women. But his nomination had to go through or the democraps, who were in the majority on the judiciary committee, would have been seen as racist by black voters.

biden, the chair of that committee, had a job to do for the good of the nation. he refused. he HAD to put Anita Hill on the stand because she publicly accused Thomas of abuse. But he also SHOULD have brought out corroboration witnesses. Doing so would have made it impossible for anyone to confirm Thomas without being tarred with the stink of affirming sexual harassment and a harasser.
biden refused to bring out corroboration witnesses, leaving the committee a plausible he said / she said confirmation.

must have hurt the racist biden to let that nom go to the floor. but he's always been a career and party first guy.

a trump woman without any obvious bad deeds will be confirmed yesterday. if there are obvious bad deeds or anticonstitutional decisions, it'll be done like Thomas was done. maybe. maybe the Nazi judiciary will just not bother to hold any such hearing.

as for impeaching kkkavanaugh... articles should have been writted before the manchin and Collins said 'aye'.

But you have to remember that it's the fucking democraps. and if they won't impeach a murderer, kidnapper, rapist, money launderer, traitor and Russian asset... they're never going to impeach a run of the mill drunk frat boy rapist.

At 2:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"A Man Is Only As Good As His Word? So How Do Closet Cases, Like (everyone in both fucking parties) Survive In Electoral Politics?"

they survive AND FLOURISH because every voter who votes could not care less that they are being lied to... as long as the lies are what they want to hear.

All that is required for evil to flourish is for the good people to do nothing.

when the "good" people keep re-electing them... it enables the evil to get ever eviler.


Post a Comment

<< Home