Sunday, May 17, 2009

Citizenship and Statesmanship

Proof that the republicans are completely morally bankrupt comes from the fact that, before President Obama has even nominated anyone to the Supreme Court, they are already mounting attacks against his choice. Is this any different than what the Democrats have done in the past? I don’t know. It seems like, when they challenged an appointee, they did so once we knew who the appointee was. And there is the cynicism angle: the Republicans are not doing this to advance any policy, they are not doing it because they actually think they can get someone one the court who will overturn Roe v. Wade; they are doing this for completely political purposes, to energize their base. Obama is going to get the nominee that he wants. The Republicans, as the Democrats did before them, will try to filibuster in hope of forcing the president to back down and pick a second nominee and therefore look bad. Some of them might actually think they will get from Obama what they couldn’t get from the Bushes or Regan—the overturning of Roe v. Wade, but that’s not going to happen and the smart ones know it. In fact, they probably won’t be able to filibuster. The democrats will stick together, Specter will stick with the democrats, and if it comes down to it Al Franken will join the court at some time in June before and there will be no filibuster. For eight years Republicans have been screaming and whining that a president’s court choices deserve a straight up and down vote and that filibusters of judicial appointees are wrong. But, as they say, the shoe is on the other glove now and many of them will prove to be hypocrites: many, but not all. Republican senators facing tough re-election campaigns have a hard choice to face. Those whose political futures depend upon attracting moderates would be ill advised to take part in a filibuster. Those who are running for reelection in safe districts and who would be safe in a primary as well can vote their conscience. Some of them might be inclined to stick to principle and oppose a filibuster. Boss Limbaugh and the pachyderm bully brigade may try to intimidate Senators with primary challenges as they did to drive Specter out of the Senate, and that will scare some of the more cowardly republicans into joining the hypocrisy. But it won’t do anything to actually derail the nomination.

I am such a wonk. This morning I got up and was channel surfing, and instead of watching morning sports I stopped on C-Span, where Mario Cuomo was being interviewed about the separation of church and state. Cuomo, whom many democrats like myself wanted to run for president in 92 and wanted to see on the Supreme Court in 95: Cuomo who is the greatest statesman the Democratic Party has. When discussing this issue Cuomo gave a concise history of the Supreme Court and noted that the court was intended to be apolitical. He used the analogy of an umpire who can’t make a call on a pitch that hasn’t been thrown to make the point that a justice can’t come in with an opinion on a case he or she hasn’t heard yet. But that, he said, is only an ideal.

It is now a political battle and he predicted that in a political battle Obama will win. The republicans are just being cynical partisan hacks. They are an embarrassment to democracy.

So to, by the way, are those at Notre Dame and Arizona State who would deny the president an honorary degree. In Arizona, the state that resisted a Martin Luther King holiday until it was the last one without one, it just looks bad. Their argument that he had not yet accomplished enough is absurd. They didn’t give him the (totally useless, by the way) degree when he spoke there this week. Notre Dame will give him a degree, but under a cloud of pro-life protests. It is clear they don’t’ teach citizenship at Notre Dame. Let me say that I was opposed to President Bush and his policies. I wrote a book about it. I protested the 2004 convention in New York. But I would have been honored to have him speak at my graduation and to shake his hand, because he is the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES and though we may oppose his policies and his actions as chief executive we must support the office and his position as head of state. It is as head of state the president acts in ceremonial functions and it is our duty as citizens to support and honor him in that function, whether we are protesting.

So shut up about it and stop embarrassing us. Thankfully the administration t Notre Dame understands citizenship.


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