In many ways, Merrick Garland’s Monday confirmation hearing for the Attorney General was almost exactly what his 2016 hearing for the Supreme Court would have been. The issues raised by Republican senators – illegal immigration, guns, executive power, big technology – are pretty much the standard GOP rate. You could be excused if, according to the procedures, it felt like Donald Trump never happened.
The most senior member of the minority, Chuck Grassley, set the Republican tone for the proceedings by starting with a long list of grievances and stock complaints, none of which had anything to do with Judge Garland. Explaining his refusal to hold a hearing for Garland as a 2016 SCOTUS nominee, Grassley accepted the rudeness of free-floating, but later highlighted his own pain. He referenced the 2018 hearing of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, expressing anger that Democrats had had the recklessness to call Christine Blasey Ford to testify about an alleged sexual assault: “Yes, it is true that I did not give her a Hearing Judge Garland “, Grassley said. “I didn’t mischaracterize his record either. I did not attack his character. I didn’t check his high school yearbook. I didn’t make your wife cry out of the audience. I took a position on hearings and held it and that’s it. I admire Judge Garland’s public service. “In other words, something, something, remember Kavanaugh? Let the umbraging begin!
Yes, we heard about Hurricane Crossfire and the illegal searches of the Trump campaign. We heard about anti-racist protesters outside the Portland Courthouse. We heard about the report from John Durham and, of course, from Hunter Biden. But for all intents and purposes, there was a big Trump-shaped vacuum in these proceedings suggesting that Senate Republicans expect us all to quickly forget everything Trump did in the last four years and everything they did to enable what he did. Even repeated questioning of the Justice Department’s investigation into the Jan.6 riots on Capitol Hill left Trump largely out of the mix, with vague references to “earlier” examinations of what caused them. Instead, we hear about Eric Holder, about James Comey, about Hillary Clinton.
But the Republicans? Still full of rage. In describing a Department of Justice that had been “politicized and armed,” under President ObamaSenator Ted Cruz, apparently without irony, was silent about what came next. Josh Hawley was on the verge of tears when he described the scourge of the “political attacks” of innocent Republicans by “Obama-Biden Whitehouse” and all the unjust attacks against Republicans. Senator Mike Lee tried to trick Garland into agreeing with him that Kristen Clarke, chosen to head the Justice Department’s civil rights division, was anti-Semitic. (Garland refused to take the hook.) It’s hard to know if Hawley, Cruz, and Lee have somehow forgotten the Trump years, or if they truly believe that the rest of us possess the short-term memories of a goldfish. Either way, it’s a relief to turn our clocks back to the good old days of floating Republicans complaining about Obama and Eric Holder and gun control and all the ways Republicans have suffered at the hands of bloodthirsty Democrats. the last years. The floating whine is probably the most tangible symbol of a return to normalcy.
Among the many reasons why Garland is the perfect candidate for this moment? His refusal to be offended or drawn into stupid colloquia on political talking points so old they smell like stale cheese. He kept reminding the committee that he has been around for a long time and seen many things, and that he is not going to worry about his self-pity. His opening statement, in which he summoned the Attorney General and later Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, was a subtle and cautionary warning that he simply doesn’t have time for petty politics. Citing Jackson’s famous warning, Garland said: “The prosecutor has more control over life, liberty and reputation than anyone else in America. While prosecutors at their best are one of the most beneficial forces in our society, when they act out of malice or other basic motives, they are one of the worst. “He closed with Jackson’s warning that” the safety of the citizen lies in the prosecutor who tempers zeal with human goodness, who seeks the truth and not the victims, who serves the law and not the purposes of the factions, and who approaches the task with humility ”.
It was an elegant formulation, and one that, with all the talk from Hunter Biden and James Comey and the political impeachments of innocent Republicans, felt relevant and deeply out of step with our current moment. Perhaps more than anything, it was an indication that Garland, the Justice Department, and the country are moving on and on. In response, Senate Republicans appear to be retreating to the soft comforts on offer in 2016, wringing their hands on Fast and the Furious (really Ted Cuz?) And the good old days when Donald J. Trump was still just a television clown. .
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