In just a few weeks, Washington and the Bombastic Bards of the Beltway will be convulsed by the Senate hearings on President Obama’s nominee to replace Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court. The Repubs have zero chance of derailing the nomination, but that doesn’t mean they won’t come out guns blazing.
We don’t know who the nominee will be right now, but there is one thing we do know about her: She will be portrayed as the Beast of the Apocalypse.
How do we know she will be a BOA? Because the Outrage Machine will turn her into a BOA. Her actual training and record and positions, such as can be discerned, hardly matter.
It works both ways, of course. When the Repubs put up a nominee, whether it’s Clarence Thomas or Robert Bork or Sam Alito, the Dem Outrage Machine cranks up to its fulminating peak to persuade us that the very Republic will fall if this monster takes the bench. And now that the Dems finally have their first open seat since Bill Clinton’s day, the GOP Outrage Machine is ready to rumble.
As with so many other things about our politics, these battles have a dreary, pro forma quality to them. So many of the witnesses for and against the nominee, whoever she is, will spout the predictable red-meat lines designed to gin up the fund-raising. As usual in these hearings, anyone slightly to the left is painted as a flag-burning, family-trashing atheist scumdog. Anyone slightly to the right is a choice-quashing, gun-hugging, Cheney-loving whale killer.
If you haven’t been through a bunch of these before, here’s what to remember: Much of the testimony will be supplied by professional experts and chieftains of various cause groups, and these people do not deal in real-world gradations of gray between the black Evil and the white Good. Even though the person replacing Souter will probably be his ideological twin, causing no realignment or shift on the Court, she will nonetheless be savaged, unless the dwindling Repubs, knowing they can’t win, decide to hold their fire for another day.
The other thing to remember is that nobody really knows how a nominee will vote once confirmed to the Court. For a classic proof of that, go back and look at what some of the Dem Left said about David Souter when he was nominated by Bush I in 1990.
Yep, Souter was blasted as a BOA, loathed and feared by liberals–except that once on the Court, he quickly gravitated to the liberal wing, where he remains ensconced unto this day, waiting until a Dem pres could replace him with an ally.
The so-called expert’s warning cries against this strangler of freedom are here , and should, but probably won’t, serve as a counsel of caution and humility.