A Dangerous Road

Yesterday, I was supposed to speak at an event sponsored by Organizing for America, focused on the battle over Antonin Scalia’s replacement on the Supreme Court. Instead, of course, I was in the hospital. Since I hate to let a speech go to waste, here are the remarks I had planned to make.


The refusal by Senate Republicans to even consider a nominee is dangerous for two reasons. The first reason, obviously, is the need to have a full complement of Justices who will hear and deliberate over the important cases that come before the highest court in the land.

The second reason, however, worries me even more, because the absolutely unprecedented position being taken by Mitch McConnell, Chuck Grassley and the other Senate Republicans represents yet another ratcheting up of the obstruction tactics that the Party of No has engaged in ever since President Obama took office.

This is not the way our system is supposed to work. We don’t elect people so that we can watch them not only refuse to do their jobs but actively throw sand in the gears of government.

Let’s look at what is at stake.

Republicans in the Senate are refusing to participate in the Constitutionally-required process of “advice and consent.” Their argument is that because this is an election year, and the President is in the last year of his tenure, he shouldn’t get to nominate Scalia’s successor.

Of course, that argument ignores the Constitution, which these partisans claim to revere. So much for “strict construction.” But it fails on other grounds as well:

  • Historically, the longest stretch of time between a nomination and a vote has been 125 days. Over 330 days remain in Obama’s term of office.
  • There is absolutely no precedent for this refusal to follow the Constitution. Between 1796 and 1988, at least 14 Justices have been confirmed during election years.

According to legal historians, Senate Republicans would have to reach back to the mid-1800s to find an instance in which the Senate blocked a nominee for reasons having nothing to do with the individual who’d been nominated—that is, just to obstruct the sitting President. And even then, they rejected a particular nominee—they didn’t refuse to consider any.

The Republicans’ behavior is thus a repudiation of both the Constitutional separation of powers and the Constitution’s definition of a Presidential term. If they persist, the Supreme Court will have a vacancy for over a year, and will operate in the interim with only 8 Justices. If the Court splits 4-4, the case sets no precedent, and difficult and divisive issues will remain unresolved.

As troubling as is to see partisan politics affecting the ability of the Court to do its work, what is even more worrisome is the willingness of these Senators to ignore both their constitutional duty and the best interests of the American people in order to demean and diminish a President who was twice elected by large majorities of the American people.

This fixation on sabotaging anything and everything the President does—this unwillingness to support even policies that were originally their own if President Obama proposes them, the refusal to confirm not just a replacement for Scalia, but dozens of lower court judges and agency appointments—is behavior that undermines America’s democratic institutions and calls into question our continued ability to govern ourselves.

This ugly and unpatriotic conduct should be beneath the dignity of members of the United States Senate, but it clearly isn’t.

Although I didn’t plan to say this at the event, it is noteworthy that none of the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination has bothered to counsel against this assault on settled constitutional processes, or express concern that legitimizing this level of animus will make it more difficult for the next President to accomplish anything.

We’re going down a very dangerous road.


  1. The Party of No also has no ideas and no policies. They should select their nominee for president by having them arm wrestle or target shoot with revolvers.

  2. Seeing what the Republican presidential candidates are willing to do to each other, it isn’t surprising that Republicans are not restrained in what they will do to a Democrat president.

  3. Thank you so very much Dr. Kennedy for posting this wonderful piece!!! I just wish, as no doubt you do too, that you could have been able to deliver these remarks when and where you had originally intended. I would have like to have been in the audience so that I could have stood up and cheered! My guess, and it’s a good guess, is that I wouldn’t have been alone in doing so!

  4. Republicans have effectively shut down Congress. They now are campaigning to compromise the Supreme Court. They’ve done everything possible to hamper the operation of the Presidency. Their actions have all but shutdown their own party.

    They took Grover Norquist seriously when he said “I’m not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”

    Of course they even understood Reagan to be speaking of all administrations, not just his own at that time, when he said “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

    They have relentlessly campaigned to replace our Constitutional democracy with theocracy or oligarchy.

    They have a vision to create an America that will be the dictator of the free world rather than the leader of it.

    They still believe in isolationism and don’t believe in science.

    They’ve defended the Native American belief that they are original Americans entitled to exclusive benefit of our lands despite the fact that clearly they are virtually all immigrants or descended from them.

    To them the 100 or so Americans who die from gun violence every day are expendable and deserve no protection.

    They see women as breeding stock.

    They sneer at civil discourse and celebrate rude by their resistance to political correctness.

    They are actively working towards the European model of small independent states that optimize locally and suffer from collective discord.

    They believe in education for the elite and a middle and underclass trapped in servitude by ignorance.

    Finally the believe in the aristocracy of Wall Street, money changers in the temple revered for their power.

    This is what happens when culture empowers those addicted to control of others. Society can no longer function and they have demonstrated that dysfunction repeatedly in business, religion and now government.

    The Taliban is clearly not our largest extremist threat. It’s much closer to home.

  5. Pete, an excellent indictment of the current Republican Party.

    What scares me is that they appear to have no fear of voter backlash. What do they know that we don’t?

  6. Ginny,

    “What do they know that we don’t?” They know they’re, at the moment, in total control. There is no effective opposition whatsoever to their movement under the brand: Tea Party.

    Donald Trump will ride the TEA PARTY HORSE all the way to the White House if no one is willing to “cut that horse from under him.”

  7. The republican spectacle is full of irony. The establishment is now railing against the practices they created under the leadership of Karl Rove and Norquist. The frankenstein monster is alive and they can’t control it.

  8. The Congressional Republicans are in office only to follow the orders from the 158 uber-wealthy people that have created a plutocracy. In fairness, there also are Democrats that bow to the alter of the uber-wealthy. I view the plutocrats as members of a Mafia organization that has taken us all hostage and demands payments to their corporate bank accounts. One form of payment is via the tax laws that allow them to avoid paying taxes.

    Citizens United was the ‘icing on the cake’ that gave them even more power over elections and their ability to RULE over our country.

    Every time I hear Mitch McConnell or anyone else from the Senate say they want to give The People the chance to choose the next SCOTUS judge (by electing a new president) I cringe at their attack on the general public’s intelligence. We, The People, chose the current President – twice. If a Democrat is elected to be our next President, will the Senate also block their ability to choose the next judge? It could happen.

    The Republicans are bullies and I find their frustration over losing control of their party to Trump to be very entertaining. The fact that their own party is so sick of them that they are choosing someone like Trump (who supposedly can’t be bought) should have taught them that they really really need to start serving the general public. Nope, they will continue to be bullies until they are some day forced to give in. The sooner, the better.

  9. Aging Grl,

    And that “very dangerous road” is called AMERICAN STYLED FASCISM. They’ve built the horse and have been building the road for its run since 1970. They’ve only needed a “ROTTEN JOCKEY” to finally ride it.

  10. Once again the “Do Nothing Congress” is working hard to do absolutely nothing.

  11. Eileen,

    That’s a very good article, but it’s outdated. All the Republican Party candidates say they will support Donald Trump if nominated. See Yahoo this morning.

    The Republican Party isn’t falling apart. It’s becoming more cohesive toward their ultimate goal. Donald Trump is only speeding up the TIMELINE.

  12. Eileen, addiction to control, or authoritarianism, is the antithesis of progress despite the old saying that the best form of government is a benevolent dictator. Efficient, maybe. Effective, no.

    Collaboration is the search for the best ideas, the most compelling perspective, balance, the middle of the road. It’s why control freaks, despite their heaping helping of ego, just can’t keep up with people working together.

    Collaboration is the wisdom behind we, the people. It’s leads to the best that we can be.

  13. Marv, only time will tell the course of our ship of state. I too was appalled last night at the crowd at the Republican Debate cheering dysfunction like Romans at the Coliseum cheering on life destroying life. Sickening.

    My optimism about humanity has served me well over the long term if not the short. I am congenitally programmed to root for good which seems to me is our birthright.

    I also accept the forces of greed and the chaos of free will.

    The great experiment in democracy will prevail but is absolutely under attack by forces from within.

    It’s up to us to make the choice and we are inherently progressive. Let’s just do it.

  14. Pete,

    “Collaboration is the wisdom behind we, the people. It leads to the best that we can be.”

    As usual, you’ve hit the target again. Take a look at the February 29, 2016 issue of “The New Yorker.” The article on “leadership” confirms the answer. It all comes down to “the people.”

    That’s Sheila’s unique gift: She enlightens us (the people). In that way, we can eventually collaborate toward a worthwhile goal. It’s not too late. Hillary Clinton can win.

  15. Thank you daleb,

    The GOP establishment did all of this to themselves and to all of us as well. The propagandists and other goons that helped the Nazis take over Germany 84 years ago this year would very likely be in full-tilt awe of these birds. They’ve forced a new reality on all of us, one that we are slow to realize since we still cling to those outmoded ideas such as civility, forthrightness, rationality, fairness, and common sense. In doing so, they have placed us at a disadvantage as we grapple with what is happening in this country. The level playing field we used to have has been turned inside out.

    Meanwhile, the vast majority of Americans, many of whom pride themselves in their lack of concern with all things political, are still asleep in regard to the full extent of the dirty rotten game that has been played on all of us. I just hope that there isn’t a Gotterdammerung akin to what all those good Germans later experienced lurking in our collective future as a result.

  16. Tom,

    “I just hope that there isn’t a Gotterdammerung akin to what all those good Germans later experienced lurking in our collective future as a result.”

    Possibly, a more modern word of caution would be: FUTURCIDE.

  17. I was struck last night by the sucking up by Cruz and Rubio to conservatives as if the evidence of the failures of conservatism wasn’t pervasive. The evidence is just as compelling that conservatism virtually always fails to deliver as it is that burning the fossil fuels that we inherited from antiquity would destroy our future.

    Conservatives deny reality as well as worship authority. That is a fatal combination.

  18. It is obvious to me that Trump does not want to lead the country. In fact, none of the Republican office seekers, or those in elected positions today, want to lead the country. They want to CONTROL the country. Fascism is at the gate.

  19. Theresa,

    “They want to CONTROL the country. Fascism is at the gate.”

    I agree. We’re all getting on the “same page.”

    After tracking this phenomenon for 45 years, it might be a little bit more accurate to say that “Fascism is coming through the gate.” What has happened is very similar to the breakthrough during the BATTLE OF THE BULGE. Both have depended on massive deceptions.

    The answer lies in our ability to close the shoulders of the gap. We have the ability to do it.

  20. First, I am so sorry to hear about your accident. At 68, been there/done that. Twice. 58 and 63. Yuk.

    Second, I recommend “Enhanced V-8,” for medicinal purposes, with one part V-8, three parts vodka, seasoned to taste with salt, pepper, and Tabasco sauce. If you use Stolichnaya you’ll understand what the Nazi’s faced on the eastern from from 1943 on. Even in sufficient quantity, it does not prevent falling, but it does prevent caring. 🙂

    Third, no one recommends the election of “Enhanced Assholes,” especially when seasoned to taste with racial prejudice, ignorance, and sociopath personalities, just damned sore losers. Those guys must have had had crazy childhoods with limited friendships. Who would want to play with them? Setting aside the intellectual, jurisprudence, and political analysis, we’ve all met these guys on the playground. Every time we had our daily pick-up baseball game at the ISP Post in Jasper, there was one kid who demanded his way or the highway. Either he got to pitch for a side, or he wouldn’t play. For a while we took the deal because we needed the bodies. But after a while, he kept upping the anti. If he got pounded with hits and long balls, he would threaten to quit unless we stopped connecting. That was our last straw. We kicked him out for good, but we had to change the baseball rules to keep playing. The temptation will be to ‘change the rules’ to get even, as Aristotle said. But you can’t play with Enhanced Assholes, no matter what, viz Adolf, Benito, Joe, McCarthy, or these third-rate mini-dictators.

  21. I intermittently watched that debacle titled “Presidential Debate” last night. Trump actually made a reference to the adequacy of his manhood. Cruz, Rubio and Trump took turns interrupting one another, running over their allotted time and generally behaving like petulant toddlers. We thought it ludicrous that Sarah Palin was a heartbeat away from being the most powerful person on the plant, but these are not much better. If these men think they are presidential material, then we are all in trouble. Shameful is the only word for this. Other countries must be laughing their butts off.

  22. I think electing any republican candidate would be a tragic mistake for the US. However, if I had to live with one, I would choose Trump over Cruz (certainly) and Rubio. Trump is a loose cannon, but Cruz is a Nazi and Rubio does what his handlers tell him to do. So for all his bluster and lies, he still appeals to me more than either of those two. At least you know what you’re getting. Cruz or Rubio would develop ways harm the country, the economy and what’s left of the middle class.

    Please don’t interpret this as an endorsement of Trump.

  23. “bow to the alter of the uber-wealthy”
    Nancy: I think you meant to write “ALTAR” of the uber-wealthy, not “ALTER” a distinction Spell-Check cannot interpret. “ALTAR” is the place were they pray to King Midas to enable their accumulation of wealth, but actually hocus-pocus is better realized in Congress.

  24. Marv – Fascism is already among us. Just listen to Marco Rubio. I’d like to hear a debate between Marco and Bernie, one a fascist Battista and the other a Democrat-socialist.

  25. daleb,

    I whole heartedly support your analysis. Can you imagine, Donald Trump as the best Republican candidate for President. It’s like picking whose BEST in the late 30’s among Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo. I’m not being sarcastic, I’m serious.

    Like you, I’m favoring our present day Mussolini. A few days ago, the Op-Ed section of The New York Times was comparing Trump to Mussolini. Cruz sort of reminds me of Tojo. He has that same kind of smirk. I never did like that guy.

  26. Sheila,
    Appreciate your condensing the history of court appointments so succinctly, and posting your speech which I’d otherwise not ‘heard’. As weary of the erosion of democracy as any thinking person, I nonetheless sport a Bernie button as a beacon of hope. Yesterday while waiting at Saxony for physical therapy, a comment regarding my button triggered a delightfully intelligent discourse between three strangers, voicing alarm then considering solutions. I believe that DOING SOMETHING, even if as small as encouraging communication, can facilitate change, and am delighted that you are continuing your rabble rousing from the hospital!

  27. OMG Michael C; Stoli is sipping vodka, never to be mixed to fully savor the flavor. Otherwise I agree with the Bloody Mary for medicinal purposes.

    Sheila; hope you are beginning to adjust to your miserable situation away from hearth and home and your loved ones. Take care and don’t rush your recuperation; Trump will still be here and so will all of the ugly issues surrounding him. But; take heart, your faithful bloggers will also be here rooting and praying for you…and for Bob to have strength to deal with your absence.

  28. It’s becoming more and more embarrassing to admit to being republican these days…

  29. Every comment here is incisive and informative, yet, not one cuts to the issue at hand. There are no issues involving constitutionality. This is no matter of conservatives vs liberal or progressives. Nor of Democrats vs Republicans. This is not the rich vs the poor nor the men vs women rights. Those issues are but distant asides to what is happening to America. What is wrong with Obama today, yesterday and tomorrow is that he is black. What McConnell voiced right after the 2008 incineration was no different than what Gov Wallace voiced in 1963.

    He is hated because he is black and he would be hated if he had wings and walked on water. Once our leaders call a spade a spade (?), we may come to terms with our peculiar situation. We are very quickly becoming a multi-cultural nation but the old guard is not ready to cede it’s easily won victories. ( The Bible and the gun) I fear they will not go quietly into the dusk.

    We tread a dangerous road.

  30. Earl,

    “I fear they will not go quietly into the dusk.” “We tread a dangerous road.”

    That dangerous road is going to consist of a RACIST MINE FIELD laid BEHIND Donald Trump once he is confirmed as the Republican candidate for the Presidency.

    Trump is not afraid to be called anti-Semitic or a racist. He’s been playing those “trump cards” long before he entered the presidential race last June. And anyone who seriously challenges him will be subject to the dangers of a white supremacy or a KKK retaliation.

    Now is the time to take on Donald Trump. It will be much more dangerous later on. Simply put, it will be virtually impossible to defeat him once he’s CONSOLIDATED his campaign into a strategy of WHITE VS. BLACK ala George Bush #1.

  31. “I skate to where the puck is gonna be, not where it has been.” ~Wayne Gretzky

    We must lay our own “land mines” AHEAD of the novice political jockey Donald Trump before he realizes he’s racing for the presidency on a steeplechase track instead of a dirt track straight away. Trump can’t win with a crippled horse no matter how much money he has or political power that he thinks he has.

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