Friday, February 19, 2016

Even Joe McCarthy Wasn't Such a D*ck About Supreme Court Nominations

Former Wisconsin senator Joseph McCarthy. (photo: Getty)
Former Wisconsin senator Joseph McCarthy. (photo: Getty)

By Charles Pierce, Esquire
17 February 16
Almost makes you miss the Red Scare.​

hanks to Josh Marshall, who catches Pete Williams of NBC as a ref who has been thoroughly worked by the folks in the conservative coaching box, our attention is drawn to the nomination and confirmation of William Brennan, who was a recess appointment—horrors!—to the Supreme Court by President Dwight Eisenhower. The transcript of the hearing is flatly amazing. The first questioner is a noisy fool from Wisconsin named Joseph McCarthy.
Mr. Brennan, we are asked to either vote to confirm or reject you. One of the things I have maintained is that you have adopted the gobbledegook that communism is merely a political party, it is not a conspiracy. The Supreme Court has held that it is a conspiracy to overthrow the Government of this country. I am merely asking you a very simple question. It doesn't relate to any lawsuit pending before the Supreme Court. Let me repeat it. Do you consider communism merely as a political party or do you consider it as a conspiracy to overthrow this country?
So things were off to a rousing start. Then, along came Senator Joseph O'Mahoney, born in Chelsea up here in the Commonwealth (God save it!), but representing Wyoming , and apparently concerned that folks might worry about Brennan's taking orders from the pope in Rome.
Mr. Chairman, let me address the question to the nominee, Associate Justice Brennan. I read it again from the statement filed with this committee under date of February 26, 1957, by Mr. Charles Smith. "You are bound by your religion to follow the pronouncements of the Pope on all matters of faith and morals. There may be some controversies which involve matters of faith and morals and also matters of law and justice. But in matters of law and justice, you are bound by your oath to follow not papal decrees and doctrines, but the laws and precedents of this Nation. If you should be faced with such a mixed issue, would you be able to follow the requirements of your oath or would you be bound by your religious obligations?"
To which Brennan replied, presaging John F. Kennedy's speech to the Baptist ministers in Houston four years later:
Senator, I think the oath that I took is the same one that you and all of the Congress, every member of the executive department up and down all levels of government take to support the Constitution and laws of the United States. I took that oath just as unreservedly as I know you did, and every member and everyone else of our faith in whatever office elected or appointive he may hold. And I say not that I recognize that there is any obligation superior to that, rather that there isn't any obligation of our faith superior to that. And my answer to the question is categorically that in everything I have ever done, in every office I have held in my life or that I shall ever do in the future, what shall control me is the oath that I took to support the Constitution and laws of the United States…
So, here we are. One of the great justices in the history of the Court gets questioned as to whether he's soft on Communism, and as to whether he's an underground agent of the Vatican conspiracy. And he's a recess appointment, and he gets confirmed anyway. Even this little episode in political history makes infinitely more sense than whatever carnival of idiocy the Senate Republicans have planned for whomever the president nominates.


+66 # Dust 2016-02-17 13:31
So wait... why aren't people asking the same questions regarding the conservative religious views of so many members of Congress? Why aren't people asking "Are you able to serve the Constitution of the United States even when it disagrees with your religious viewpoints?"

Or do people like Ted Cruz get a pass simply because... you know... JAYBUS!
-41 # Roland 2016-02-17 14:54
I imagine all here are aware of this, but I thought it was worth posting.

Sen. Chuck Schumer made comments back in 2007 during the approval process for justices nominated by President George W. Bush. Now that the tables have turned, the Democrat is saying his comments are being mischaracterize d. But they're pretty clear:

"The Supreme Court is dangerously out of balance," Schumer said at the time. "We cannot afford to see Justice Stevens replaced by another Roberts; or Justice Ginsburg by another Alito. Given the track record of this President and the experience of obfuscation at the hearings, with respect to the Supreme Court, at least: I will recommend to my colleagues that we should not confirm a Supreme Court nominee EXCEPT in extraordinary circumstances."
+49 # Wally Jasper 2016-02-17 18:28
I wasn't aware that Dems had also played the obstructionist game. But somehow, Sen. Schumer's remarks make sense to me while the current spectacle is outrageous. It seems the main, and most important, difference here is that Schumer added, "EXCEPT in extraordinary circumstances" which may mean: except if W. nominates an impartial, exemplary jurist who is a model of integrity. That would have been extraordinary indeed. In Obama's case, he will very definitely seek out and nominate some exceptional people of the highest caliber, widely esteemed across party lines and with whom it would be hard to find fault (although I'm sure the Repugs will do their darndest to find something...anything).

Let's just acknowledge the obvious: the Republicans' hostility and wish to tear down anything Obama tries to do is rooted in their blatant racism. They never will accept that finally a black man rose to the highest official position in this country and has smashed through the previously impenetrable wall of white male power. That's why they hate him, because he certainly hasn't tried to rattle their cages too much in terms of pressing forward a progressive, non-militaristic agenda.

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