Merrick Garland Exists, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. He Was Real. We All Saw Him.
We're hearing a lot about the supposed "fair process" involved in confirming a Supreme Court justice. During his sitdown with FOX's Martha MacCallum, vintage calendar collector Brett Kavanaugh repeated the phrase no more than 17 times (because 18 would've been excessive). That interview, by the way, reminded me of the Barbara Walters specials where a celebrity shows up freshly scrubbed after rehab to prove how they've changed and are ready to work again. There was also a nod to Walters's annual Oscar specials where the star just wants their nominated performances judged "fairly." Forget about all those goofy comedies they made before they played a blind pianist during the Holocaust.
But what is fair? Well White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has an idea, and it's one rooted in the traditions and unbroken precedents of the past two years.
.@PressSec: “The president wants this process to come to a vote because that’s what’s supposed to happen in every s… https://t.co/dZhqEjY7MD— Fox News (@Fox News) 1537877483.0
That seems "fair" to most reasonable people who suffered some form of massive head trauma and are thus unable to form new memories after March 15, 2016. However, the very next day Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. Republicans, who controlled the Senate, refused to hold hearings for any nominee of Obama's for reasons that were conveniently very specific to this situation and non-transferrable to any nominees from Republican presidents.
Lindsey Graham insisted that not confirming Kavanaugh would "ruin his life," but by that rather hyperbolic standard, Graham happily and without remorse ruined Garland's life. He was even one of the few Republicans to meet with Garland face-to-face and tell him "kid, this ain't your night." (Graham also said then that the implied 60-vote threshold to confirm nominees was the best way to go. He lies a lot.)
Let's take a look at Garland, the guy who hasn't been thrice accused of sexual assault, at the press conference when Obama announced his nomination. He wants this job so much. He's weeping with joy for being nominated while perhaps understanding that this is as far as he'll go. It's like if your musical was nominated for a Tony the same year as Hamilton.
And was it "fair" for Republicans to rejoice in Garland's loss of this once-in-a-lifetime achievement because they could stick it to Obama and the millions of Americans who voted for him in 2012 and sort of thought he'd be able to nominate Supreme Court justices during his second term?
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell boasted to conservatives that one of his "proudest moments" was when he told Obama that, "You will not fill this Supreme Court vacancy." Rounding out McConnell's personal top three was stealing candy from a hypoglycemic child and convincing Satan to take his chin instead of his soul. (I think Satan got the better deal there.)
This morning, on "Morning Joe," Republican Senator John Kennedy (couldn't Democrats at least get exclusive rights on the name?) argued it was "unfair" to both the Constitution and to litigants to leave Justice Anthony Kennedy's seat vacant much longer. None of the supposed journalists present mentioned Garland's name. This isn't "gotcha" journalism. It's "got a short-term memory problem" journalism.
I tend to think showcasing obvious hypocrisy is only useful if dealing with a Republican party containing somewhat honorable men and female assistants. However, we need to never forget Merrick Garland not just while Kavanaugh's supporters throw a pity party for him that he'll dutifully record in his 2018 calendar. We need to remember Garland as an example of what the modern GOP is. Republicans will never play fair with Democrats. They will cloak themselves in the robes of democracy and justice while simultaneously mocking and obstructing both. And they will "plow right through" and put (another) accused sexual abuser on the Supreme Court if they can, because all that matters to them is power.
Most importantly, if they can erase Garland from the collective memory, they will attempt the same with a Justice Kavanaugh's "inconvenient" past.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."