Editorial: The game is clear, so let’s not pretend

  • Merrick Garland is President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court. AP

Tuesday, March 29, 2016
What is the refusal of Republican senators to grant a hearing to Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland if not contempt for voters?

That’s not how this gang of public servants spins it, of course. A politician can’t win election by way of overt condescension. Instead, the disdain they apparently feel for the men and women who elected them is manifested in the exploitation of political divisions they themselves create and nurture.

When Sen. Kelly Ayotte says, “I continue to believe the Senate should not move forward with the confirmation process until the people have spoken by electing a new president,” does any New Hampshire voter believe that’s how she honestly feels? That if Mitt Romney was the president, she would take the very same stand? That this isn’t just the latest maddening chapter in a book Republicans have been writing since 2008?

The most frustrating part of this whole mess is that Ayotte seems like a good person with the skills to be a very good senator. She is bright and thoughtful, and when not under the spell of Mitch McConnell seems to genuinely care for her constituents. But it’s painful to watch the way she plays the Washington game.

Last year there was her embarrassing and infuriating decision to join 46 Republican colleagues in signing the infamous open letter to the “Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” A year later, after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February, she joined another transparent attempt to undermine Obama for the sake of undermining Obama.

But Ayotte is no longer taking a stand for the American people, as she claims; she is blocking a hearing for a judge who is widely respected among Republicans and Democrats alike, and obstructing the proper function of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Meet her new political enemy: Merrick Garland, 63, has been married to Lynn for 30 years, and they have two daughters, Becky and Jessie. The family enjoys skiing, hiking, canoeing and visiting national parks. Garland began his legal career as a clerk for Second Circuit Judge Henry Friendly and later clerked for Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, who was appointed by President Eisenhower just before the 1956 presidential election. Garland later moved into private practice, focusing on pro bono work for America’s disadvantaged before becoming a federal prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Washington, D.C., in 1989. Later, as a deputy attorney general in the Justice Department, Garland did what he considers to be the most important work of his career: overseeing the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing case. The Illinois native has now served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for 19 years, including the past three as chief judge.

Over the coming days, Ayotte and the senators she stands with will tell the American people that this is not about Merrick Garland at all, that they wish only to give voters a say in who nominates the next Supreme Court justice.

Again, do you think Ayotte would take that position if the president was a Republican? If the answer is no, and if you’re honest with yourself it will be, then the game is clear. And if Garland is deserving of a hearing on his own merits, which he is, that makes you, the voter, a pawn in a dirty Washington game that has absolutely nothing to do with fairness or principle.

If that’s not contempt for the voter, what is?