Short Relief: Always look on the bright side of the law

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I understand Republicans’ opposition to holding a hearing and confirming President Obama’s nominee to replace conservative icon Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.

In particular, I understand Sen. Mitch McConnell’s resentment of Sen. Harry Reid’s hypocritical sanctimoniousness. The atmosphere in Washington, D.C., is poisoned and it was not poisoned by Republicans alone.

Democrats played power politics when they could, shutting out Republicans and restructuring health insurance on a party-line vote. Using executive orders to circumvent immigration law. Changing the Senate’s rules to limit the minority party’s rights. Circumventing the Senate’s role in foreign policy by making an agreement, not a treaty, with Iran.

And Democrats have behaved badly toward Republican nominees when they could.

In 1987, they attacked Robert Bork, President Ronald Reagan’s nominee to replace moderate conservative Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell. They denounced Bork as ignorant and prejudiced, and a supporter of back-alley abortions, segregated lunch counters, police abuse, and creationism.

In 1969, Democrats attacked Clement Haynsworth, President Richard Nixon’s nominee to replace liberal Justice Abe Fortas, as being racist, corrupt and anti-labor. More recently, they attacked President George W. Bush’s nominees John Roberts and Samuel Alito as extremist, racist, sexist, suck-ups and liars.

Worst of all was the bitter and ugly confirmation of Justice Clarence Thomas to replace liberal icon Justice Thurgood Marshall in 1991.

Republicans have not been above attacking Democrats, either. In 1968, they accused Fortas of accepting inappropriate speaking fees and retainers, filibustered President Lyndon Johnson’s attempt to elevate him to chief justice, and ultimately forced his resignation. More recently, they attacked President Bill Clinton’s nominations of Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood to be attorney general on the basis that they had employed illegal aliens as nannies, and Lani Guinier to be assistant attorney general for civil rights because of her support for radical forms of affirmative action.

It’s like a blood feud. No appeal to higher principle is availing. Each party feels aggrieved and determined to extract revenge for the most recent offense by the other. No one can remember the original cause. The fact that this type of vendetta can occur in a modern, civilized society like ours is testament to the limits of the rule of law. It doesn’t work unless animated by a spirit of goodwill.

Neither the structure of our government nor recent elections alone give either party a clear claim of right. The Constitution creates checks and balances. It gives both the president and the Senate a role in the process of filling seats on the court. The president has the power to nominate. The Senate has the power to advise and consent. While the president won re-election in 2012, Republicans won control of the Senate in 2014.

In order to stop the cycle of recrimination, someone has to take the first step and rise above. It may be that Obama nominated Merrick Garland to make Republicans look bad for opposing him. It would be better to think otherwise: that the president nominated an extremely qualified and eminently reasonable person because it was the right thing to do.

My wife and I were colleagues and friends of Garland’s when he left private practice as a partner at a large, prestigious D.C. law firm in order to go into government service as a line assistant in the U.S. attorney’s office, where he started out by trying drug cases. Later, he became deputy assistant attorney general in charge of the criminal division of the Department of Justice. He has been an appellate judge on the District of Columbia Circuit since 1995.

Garland is smart and well-educated. He has extensive experience in private practice, government service, and on the bench. He is thoughtful and fair-minded.

The country couldn’t do much better. Republicans could do a lot worse. Republicans in the Senate should hold a hearing, confirm Garland, and take a step toward restoring some goodwill to our system.

Halsey Frank is a Portland resident, attorney and former chairman of the Republican City Committee.

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  • Aliyah33

    Taking it a step further: “Always look on the bright side of law, but do the homework.” Since you have a personal relationship with Merrick Garland, I’m wondering if you’d take time to review some links and comment. Specifically, here’s one from corbettreport.com titled “OKC Judge Rewarded With Supreme Court Nomination” describing Garland as an “insider cover-up crony for the oligarchs”.

    Within the show notes are several other informative links including an April 2010 NY Times article by Charlie Savage, “How Bombing Case Helped Shape Career of a Potential Justice”, and James Corbett’s Episode 305 – The Secret Life of Timothy McVeigh. The information regarding Merrick Garland is very disturbing, and I don’t believe we can take him at face value and personal recommendation.

    https://www.corbettreport.com/interview-1150-new-world-next-week-with-james-evan-pilato/

    • Kevin McCarthy

      A left-wing alter ego of Glenn Beck doesn’t merit a response as far as I’m concerned. Mr. Frank is welcome to do as he pleases, however.

      And for the record, Halsey your attempt at equivalence between Senate Republicans of today and senate Democrats in 1987 is entirely off the mark. I get it that you have to protect the brand. At least be honest about it.

      • Aliyah33

        Kevin, was your response meant for Halsey Frank?

        • Kevin McCarthy

          No and yes.

          • Aliyah33

            Sigh…still stuck in the “left” or “right” then if I’ve understood what you’d meant… Wonder how many others are weary of the labels, black or white thinking, the dichotomy, “my school’s better than your school”, cheerleaders for donkeys or elephants – as if those are always our only options, Jocks against Freaks….

            James Corbett is definitely no Glenn Beck (Beck’s inclined towards drama and connected to MSM Fox News), and that’d be apparent to anyone spending more than a few seconds to review the information on his website. “…protect the brand…” is definitely indicative of dichotomous thinking (although not all of your comments have been this way).

            SCOTUS nominee Merrick Garland needs a closer look; he’s aware of much more about OKC (see FBI whistleblower, Dr. Fredric Whitehurst), and is well-connected regardless of Democrat or Republican leanings.

          • Kevin McCarthy

            Sorry if you’re weary of the “left-right” labels. They can be useful in a very broad way. I didn’t come up with Mr. Corbett’s characterization as “left.” He does it himself in his podcast titled “Meet James Corbett” featured under the “About” menu on his website. I would agree he is no Glenn Beck. Glenn Beck can claim that honor all to himself. As for the Corbett/Beck similarities, the conspiracy theories, jargon, eye-rolling, air quotes, smarminess, obscure references, elevation of coincidences into proof of some nefarious shadow global government tend to detract from what could be some occasionally useful information. Then there’s Corbett’s vastly over-inflated sense of ego and self –importance. All of that may be entertaining to some, to me it’s just not worth the effort. More important, since he views his role as “replacing” the traditional press, then his judgment, or lack thereof, is intertwined with the substance of his reporting.

            And I’m sorry you feel it necessary make some vague criticism of my “dichotomous thinking” by referencing my point about Halsey Frank’s intentions to protect his brand. His “brand”, in case you hadn’t noticed, is Republican (it’s referenced right underneath his picture). Right from the outset of his column, Mr. Frank sets up an equivalence that doesn’t exist. But his real point is that Garland ought to be considered on his merits by the Senate; for which Mr. Frank deserves praise because that is heresy among prevailing Republican commentators. And I agree with you that Garland needs a closer look – maybe for all the reasons you allude to. But (with apologies to Yogi Berra), that ain’t gonna happen if it doesn’t happen.

          • Aliyah33

            No need for apologies. One of the main reasons for “left-right” and other such divisive labels is simply that, the intention’s to divide people. Perhaps one of the oldest tricks in the book; when we’re willing to allow the division and feel a need to be of one herd or the other, the ones really in positions of power make changes while the majority’s too busy being cheerleaders for their own teams. Distraction. Fact is, labels become useful especially for people like George Soros who use money to buy people as tools to incite conflict, for their own purposes.

            As for Corbett, we’re definitely seeing different characteristics. Usually, in taking time to observe people providing the information and before coming to a conclusion, flags show, and patterns of behavior as seen in Beck (crocodile tears for one). Corbett also provides links for what he’s talking about many others won’t, and encourages listeners not to take his word for anything, but do the research. That’s not conspiracy theory and neither are the ex-FBI whistleblowers.(Muckety.org also helps to find the connections of powerful people.) Mainstream Media needs a counterbalance, because it’s owned by only 5-6 major corporations (includes printed material). That said, we can agree to disagree.

            I didn’t intend to make criticism but rather an observation; the dichotomy arose in comparison again of a statement re Senate Republicans today and Senate Democrats in 1987. Yes, I know Halsey Frank labels himself Republican, but has, in past posts, made excellent points taking into consideration both sides (not always). Garland requires a closer look because of his investigation role in the OKC bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building and the deaths of 168 people and injuries to hundreds more.

          • Kevin McCarthy

            The fundamental difference between Senate R’s today and Senate D’s in 1987 as far as the Supreme Court nomination goes is that today’s Republicans won’t hold the hearings, nor, for the most part, even meet with the nominee. That’s on order of Senate leadership, i.e., Majority Leader McConnell and Chairman of the Judiciary Committee Grassley. Contrast that with Bork’s nomination in 1987, where the Democratic-controlled Senate not only held full hearings before the Judiciary Committee (chaired by Joe Biden) but also the full Senate subsequently debated and voted. Without assessing the substance of the process that occurred in Bork’s case, at least there was a process. Today’s Republicans seem perfectly content with avoiding their Constitutional duty. And by the way, nowhere in the Constitution does it say that “the people” should have “their say” in the advise and consent process.

          • Aliyah33

            Yes, you’re absolutely right.

  • truther

    This is laughable. Always with the “both sides do it” nonsense, which is misleading at best. Frank should have cut the first 11 paragraphs, then re-ordered the remainder. His entire column should read as follows:

    “Republicans in the Senate should hold a hearing, confirm Garland, and take a step toward restoring some goodwill to our system.

    “My wife and I were colleagues and friends of Garland’s when he left private practice as a partner at a large, prestigious D.C. law firm in order to go into government service as a line assistant in the U.S. attorney’s office, where he started out by trying drug cases. Later, he became deputy assistant attorney general in charge of the criminal division of the Department of Justice. He has been an appellate judge on the District of Columbia Circuit since 1995.

    “Garland is smart and well-educated. He has extensive experience in private practice, government service, and on the bench. He is thoughtful and fair-minded.

    “The country couldn’t do much better. Republicans could do a lot worse.”

    That’s what an intellectually honest columnist would have written.