Today let’s celebrate the art of the smackdown. Here are three fresh examples.
1. It’s rare that a Republican-appointed federal judge will rise up to smack down the five Republicans on the US. Supreme Court, but that’s why Richard George Kopf’s holiday-weekend outburst, on his blog, is such a kick. Kopf, appointed by George H. W. Bush and based in Nebraska, rightly ripped the GOP quintet for legislating from the bench in Hobby Lobby; for expanding “religious freedom” far beyond what federal legislation permits; and for creating an entirely new species, the theocratic corporation.
Tell it, judge!
In the Hobby Lobby cases, five male Justices of the Supreme Court, who are all members of the Catholic faith and who each were appointed by a President who hailed from the Republican party, decided that a huge corporation, with thousands of employees and gargantuan revenues, was a ‘person’ entitled to assert a religious objection to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate because that corporation was “closely held” by family members. To the average person, the result looks stupid and smells worse.
It gets better. Kopf basically said that the ruling will feed the perception that Republicans are hostile to women; that for Republicans, the political optics of the ruling are terrible. Tell it, judge!
To most people, the decision looks stupid ’cause corporations are not persons, all the legal mumbo jumbo notwithstanding. The decision looks misogynist because the majority were all men. It looks partisan because all were appointed by a Republican. The decision looks religiously motivated because each member of the majority belongs to the Catholic church, and that religious organization is opposed to contraception. While “looks” don’t matter to the logic of the law (and I am not saying the Justices are actually motivated by such things), all of us know from experience that appearances matter to the public’s acceptance of the law.
It gets even better:
The Court is now causing more harm (division) to our democracy than good by deciding hot-button cases that the Court has the power to avoid. As the kids say, it is time for the Court to stfu.
You don’t need me to explain that R-rated acronym. Suffice it to say that, after all the hot-button havoc wreaked by the 5-4 GOP majority in recent years – on everything from campaign finance and public prayer to abortion and pay discrimination – it’s viscerally satisfying to hear a Republican judge say, “Shut up.”
2. Granted, it’s no big deal to smack down Michele Bachmann. Her credibility was shredded years ago, most notably during the ’12 presidential primaries when she falsely declared that a popular vaccine for girls causes mental retardation. Still, it was awesome late last month when Fox News host Neil Cavuto ridiculed her for insisting that President Obama should be sued for imperial overreach. (John Boehner intends to sue; she’s just one of the backbench cheerleaders.)
What’s the point, he asked, of “dragging someone to court over whether they overstepped their bounds? It just seems to me like an enormous waste of effort.” Seemingly stunned by his line of questioning, she finally had to admit, “This (lawsuit) could drag on for months, and we may not get anywhere.” She tried to switch topics and rant about the IRS, but Cavuto called her out: “You’re conflating issues and being silly.”
He also nailed her for amnesia. When George W. Bush was president, she didn’t like it when Democrats complained about his frequent executive orders – so why complain now about Barack Obama’s executive orders? Cavuto: “I think you knew then that (the Democratic complaint) was a waste of time. I think you know in your heart of hearts this is a waste of time now.”
A veritable shouting match ensued, especially when Bachmann said, “What we should do right now is defund the executive branch.”
Cavuto: “Defund? Think about what you’re saying. Defund the executive branch, congresswoman? If Democrats had said ‘we’re going to defund President Bush,’ you would have laughed them out….Democrats would be in their right mind to laugh you out now.”
I’m still laughing.
3. And this smackdown is arguably the most delicious of all, the rhetorical equivalent of a summer gin and tonic:
As you surely know, the Sunday TV talk shows are routinely dominated by Beltway gasbags – many of whom are inexplicably booked over and over again, despite their track records of being egregiously wrong over and over again. The prime example, of course, is unapologetic armchair warrior Bill Kristol, who infamously marched other people’s kids into the Iraq war on a miasma of misinformation.
The unspoken rule on the Sunday shows is that all guests treat each other, and each other’s opinions, with the utmost civility. So it was giddily fabulous a week ago Sunday, on ABC News, during a lengthy debate about Iraq, when The Nation magazine’s Katrina Vanden Heuvel suddenly pivoted to Kristol and unloaded both barrels:
And I have to say, sitting next to Bill Kristol, man, I mean, the architects of catastrophe that have cost this country trillions of dollars, thousands of lives, there should be accountability…If there are no regrets for the failed assumptions that have so grievously wounded this nation, I don’t know what happened to our politics and media accountability.
But we need it, Bill, because this country should not go back to war. We don’t need armchair warriors. And if you feel so strongly, you should, with all due respect, enlist in the Iraqi army.
To which Kristol lamely replied, “That’s a cute line, Katrina.” On his way down to the canvas for a count of 10. It was a wonderful smackdown, long overdue – and alas, given the traditional Sunday politesse, we may never see its likes again.
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