Post-Scalia politics: Mitch McConnell meets Sigmund Freud

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

    My dictionary defines a Freudian slip as “an inadvertent mistake in speech that is thought to reveal a person’s unconscious motives or attitudes.” Indeed, Sigmund would’ve loved Mitch McConnell’s performance yesterday on Fox News — because the Senate Republican chieftain voiced two slips.

    McConnell was in the midst of mouthing the phony reasons why high court nominee Merrick Garland should be nixed — what conservative columnist George Will contemptuously calls the GOP’s “incoherent … tossed salad of situational ethics” — when the Senate leader suddenly spat two inadvertent truths. For starters:

    “I can’t imagine that a Republican majority in the United States Senate would want to confirm in a lame duck session a nominee opposed by the National Rifle Association …”

    Gee, that’s odd. I’ve just combed the verbiage in the U.S. Constitution and I just can’t seem to find the provision which decrees that the gun lobby has veto power over the Senate’s duty to advise and consent.

    But that clause, apparently inserted by the GOP, helps us understand what’s really going on. The laughable Republican talking points — Let The People Decide in November, No Confirmations in a President’s Final Year (um, Reagan got Anthony Kennedy in his final year) — have been crafted to mask the truth: The NRA dislikes Garland, end of story. Thank you, Mitch, for letting that slip.

    And why, pray tell, is the NRA in a dither about Garland? Did he perhaps rule, on the federal appeals court, that nutjobs should not have guns? Nope. Did he perhaps vote to curb the sale of assault weapons? Nope. His apparent sins were far more subtle:

    He voted at one point — along with a Republican appointee — to rehear an appeals court ruling that had struck down Washington, D.C.’s strict handgun ban.
    He joined a decision that allows the FBI to retain, for six months, background check info on someone who tries to buy a gun.

    And that’s it. Never mind the fact that Garland has long been uber-qualified and hailed by Republicans (32 GOP senators voted to put him on the appeals bench). Bottom line is, if a high court nominee doesn’t check every last NRA box, he’s DOA. We now know, because Mitch — on behalf of his fellow gun lobby lickspittles — just told us so.

    Which brings us to Freudian slip II. On Fox News yesterday, this was the bigger one:

    “I can’t imagine that a Republican majority Senate…would want to confirm a judge that would move the court dramatically to the left. That’s not gonna happen.”

    There it is! Thanks again, Mitch! Republicans have grown accustomed to assuming that an ideologically rightward Supreme Court is theirs by divine right, in perpetuity. They refuse to accept the fundamental fact that Democrats — who’ve controlled the White House for 16 of the last 24 years — have won the right to tilt the court in a different direction.

    Republicans got spoiled. When they enjoyed long dominance of the White House — 20 of 28 years, between 1981 and 2009 — they won the right to tilt the court. In fact, as University of Chicago law professor and court-watcher Geoffrey Stone points out, the most pivotal appointments of the past half century (including Warren Burger, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito) have all moved the court rightward, and all were nominated by Republican presidents.

    Yet now, as Stone writes, “for the first time since 1967, a nominee put forward by a Democratic president might actually move the court in an appreciably more liberal direction, and what happens — the Senate Republicans have a conniption.”

    When Republicans control the White House, they take it as a given that they have the right to shape the high court. That’s precisely what Mitch McConnell wrote way back in 1970, when he was a Kentucky law student early in the Richard Nixon era: “The President is presumably elected by the people to carry out a program, and altering the ideological directions of the Supreme Court would seem to be a legitimate party of a Presidential platform.”

    So, a reminder to Mitch and the GOP:

    Elections have consequences. Deal with it.

    Speaking of elections. Speaking of George Will. The veteran columnist, long friendly to the GOP, warned yesterday, on Fox News, that Donald Trump would wreak havoc on the GOP this November:

    “Not only are his [poll] negatives at 61 percent — almost double his positives, they are at 32 percent — but he’s appealing entirely to white people. [Mitt Romney] got 17 percent — that’s all — of the non-white vote. Trump, by every measure, would do worse than that. [To win] he would have to get 70 percent of the white vote. A, it won’t happen and B, it would destroy the Republican Party by making it the party of white people.”

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

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