In a remarkable display of hypocrisy, Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., recently tweeted this plea for support for President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh: “Americans see beyond the far-left fear mongering. Senators should do the same. We should evaluate @POTUS’s nominee fairly, based on their qualifications. And we should treat this process with the respect and the dignity that it deserves. #SCOTUSNomination.”
Two words immediately came to mind when I saw McConnell’s tweet: Merrick Garland.
Remember Garland? It was only two years ago but in today’s never-ending news and outrage cycle it is easy to become numb and acclimatized to the massive injustice perpetrated by McConnell and his Republican accomplices.
Remember Garland? It was only two years ago but in today’s never-ending news and outrage cycle it is easy to become numb.
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Merrick Garland was President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia back in 2016. At the time of his nomination, Obama still had more than nine months left in his term. During his remarks announcing Garland’s nomination, Obama said, “At a time when our politics are so polarized, at a time when norms and customs of political rhetoric and courtesy and comity are so often treated like they’re disposable — this is precisely the time when we should play it straight, and treat the process of appointing a Supreme Court justice with the seriousness and care it deserves. Because our Supreme Court really is unique. It’s supposed to be above politics. It has to be. And it should stay that way.”
So how did Mitch McConnell and his Republican colleagues respond to Obama’s call for a fair process?
Through a spokesperson, McConnell announced that he would not even meet with Garland. Indeed, he never allowed the Republican-controlled Senate to hold a single confirmation hearing. It was a decision that McConnell openly bragged about to a Kentucky publication as “the most consequential decision” he had ever made in his career.
It was a decision that McConnell openly bragged about to a Kentucky publication as “the most consequential decision” he had ever made in his career.
Keep in mind that Garland graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, clerked for two of President Dwight Eisenhower’s judicial appointees, was appointed as a federal prosecutor in President George H. W. Bush’s administration, oversaw the prosecution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and was then appointed to the D.C. Circuit Court — and confirmed by Senate Republicans! During his confirmation, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, then the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, declared on the Senate floor: “In all honesty, I would like to see one person come to this floor and say one reason why Merrick Garland does not deserve this position.”
This is the caliber of a nominee that McConnell refused to meet with. For him to now call on his colleagues to grant a “fair” evaluation of Trump’s nominee and “put partisanship aside” is the pinnacle of hypocrisy.
The Constitution stipulates that the president has the explicit authority to appoint judges and that the Senate’s role is to advise and consent. In my opinion, what McConnell’s obstruction of the Garland nomination violated both the letter and spirit of the very Constitution he swore to uphold. It was a deliberate circumvention of the executive branch’s authority and perfectly embodies the erosion of trust that has poisoned the relationship between the American people and Congress.
The day that Garland’s nomination expired marked the beginning of a new and terrible chapter in our country’s history in which the worldview of a minority orthodoxy is being imposed on the majority of its citizens.
Perhaps Patrick Henry said it best: "The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government — lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.” Our nation was founded after a revolution rejected the notion of policy without representation. When the people’s voice is silenced or ignored, they have, as the Declaration of Independence stipulates, a “duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their security."
In these times, the impact of something that happened two years ago can fade. However, as members of the GOP leadership team tries to rewrite history to justify the obstruction of Garland and work to confirm Brett Kavanaugh, it is vital that they be held to the same standards they established to justify their historic obstruction of Obama’s Supreme Court nominee two short (or long) years ago.
Kurt Bardella is an NBC News THINK contributor. He is the former Spokesperson for Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Ca., Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Follow him on Twitter: @kurtbardella.