Were you surprised that Jeff Sessions didn’t show up for his confirmation hearings in a white robe and pointy hat? That’s what we were told to expect, but Sessions didn’t spew any racist invective. He didn’t prove to be the monster portrayed by the joint media-Democratic Party smear campaign based in large part on a contentious, thirty-year-old nomination for a judgeship.
Betsy DeVos didn’t appear to have feasted on illiterate children before her confirmation trial, either. By now we should expect to be surprised. It doesn’t matter whether the position is for the Cabinet or the Supreme Court. Confirmation hearings are a stupid, pointless circus that ignore the obvious: these are partisan nominations. Did anyone believe Trump would tap Bernie Sanders as his labor secretary, or Luis Gutierrez to run Homeland Security?
Partisan smears: what did you think this was about?
There isn’t much Trump’s opposition can do to block the people he wants. That doesn’t mean effort won’t be put into smearing reputations.
With dizzying visions of the Ku Klux Klan, teacher’s unions, big oil, and Goldman Sachs swirling in their heads, Democrats had a field day getting ready to publicly roast Trump’s Cabinet choices. Amnesia can be a serious affliction on Capitol Hill. Did they forget that Obama saddled us with Tim Geithner, Janet Napolitano, Hilda Solis, Hillary Clinton, Eric Holder, Kathleen Sebelius, and Solyndra-plagued Energy Secretary Steven Chu?
Now it’s time for payback.
Confirmation hearings: time for revenge
You can always come up with a clever reason to oppose a Cabinet nominee, but it’s not really necessary. Your partisan affiliation is usually sufficient. In 2015 it was enough for House Republicans to push the Senate to oppose Loretta Lynch’s confirmation as attorney general. What was her flaw? She was too much like Eric Holder:
“Nonetheless, having observed her nomination hearing testimony, we can only conclude that she has no intention of departing in any meaningful way from the policies of Attorney General Eric Holder, who has politicized the Department of Justice and done considerable harm to the administration of justice.”1
That last part, the remark about politicizing? That’s why confirmation hearings are such laughably shabby, partisan affairs. Even the brainless masses the Senate prides itself on protecting know that this painful process is about politicizing nominee’s defects and blowing past transgressions out of proportion. No one wants to admit it, so we get this pointlessly frustrating circus instead of simply letting the president have what he wants and washing our hands of it.
2017 Cabinet circus: it doesn’t get much better
Fast forward to 2017 and this circus just gets better. We already know what’s on the agenda this year: discrimination.
Joe Crowley (D-NY), the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, gave us this humorous tidbit after President Trump declared his Supreme Court pick:
I have grave concerns that Judge Gorsuch will thrust the balance of the court rightward, impacting the rights of women, immigrants, working families, the LGBT community, and many others.2
That’s why a president’s ability to stack the court is so valuable, Rep. Crowley. It’s about partisanship. You get to have things the way your party wants them. Being “an independent arbitrator”3 has laughably little to do with the Supreme Court unless you are on the losing team. That’s where fairness and bipartisanship make a difference. Anyone who believes legislating from the bench is not the way things work is a fool.
Whose harmful agenda is this?
Is this the Senate or a comedy club? Patty Murray (D-WA) had reservations that Trump’s nominee for Veterans Affairs would push a “harmful agenda”4 without questioning how much worse things could be after the VA meltdown on Obama’s watch. With discrimination so trendy right now, race and religion got tossed into the pot:
Senator Murray also asked Dr. Shulkin to commit to treating all veterans equally, no matter their ethnicity or religion, even if pressured by Trump Administration to do otherwise.4
Does any of this nonsense matter? Trump will get what he wants. Confirmation hearings are an entertaining sideshow, but that’s not the point. This is about the process, the announcements, the media coverage, the floor speeches, and best of all, rabid partisanship at its absolute worst. Why should we expect anything better?