Two events of this day in Washington will resonate for years to come. One was unexpectedly reassuring for anyone concerned about the state of our political institutions. The other was, unfortunately, depressing and potentially disastrous.
Listening to the Supreme Court justices question the man trying to defend Colorado’s (and for that matter other states) arbitrary removal of a presidential candidate from the ballot was informative, even enlightening and inspiring. All of the justices asked cogent questions, and postulated “what-ifs” were this kind of action was to be allowed. Needless to say other states could then go their own way on balloting as well.
They all were clearly being detached and objective in their statements, and devoid of any political or ideological blinders. I was pleasantly surprised to see both the liberal and conservative justices mostly consonant in their queries, and treating the subject at hand as a matter of law and justice without regard to the particular political context. It certainly reassuring to see this level of professionalism in our justice system, at least at the highest level. There is clearly a lot more to be done to restore confidence in lower levels where power has been abused, or inconsistently applied.
Attempts to alter or restructure the court because some people are upset about a particular decision, is ill-advised. You don’t upend the overall constitutional design because a case didn’t go your way. Now, more than ever, we can see the value of the wisdom of our founders in making these lifetime appointments. That is the only way to assure that personal interests or beliefs are set aside when external pressure manifests itself, because the justices cannot be easily threatened with a ruined career. That is what enables them to step back and see things from a broader, long-term standpoint.
This is clear in the way the court deliberates. They necessarily must see things from the position of how it effects the overall process, rather than the particulars of a case. For the pendulum often swings from one side to another. Even though a particular case outcome may be perceived to be detrimental to a particular heated stance, the justices know that things can change over time, so that the roles of the disputants can be completely reversed over time.
Consider where this particular case positions each side. There is a clear ideological anomaly. The Democrats are essentially arguing for state’s rights vis a vis the federal government, which they usually oppose, while Republicans are arguing for federal primacy in this instance, which is inconsistent with their usual position. Only the Supreme Court can be detached enough to see this in a broader, constitutional context. The court took a major step today in demonstrating how the system should work, and though a decision is still pending, the overall sentiment of the justices is fairly clear.
The other item, the report of the Special Counsel on President Biden’s handling of classified documents, is far more disturbing. It is not the particulars of the documents that is troubling, but rather the devastating conclusions regarding his mental health and competency. It was only further compounded by his blustering press conference this evening. My own sense is that his handlers couldn’t control him this time because of how angry he was, so he ignored their advice and decided to storm out to the podium. But rather than setting the record straight the way he thought he would, his dismal performance only made things worse by confirming the efficacy of the observations made in the report.
It isn’t necessary to deliberate how precarious he has made things, not just for the USA, but for the entire world. It is compounded by the fact that we really don’t know who is running the country now, or perhaps even for much of his term. What he did do was enable what effectively has been a radical coup over the Democratic Party, with disastrous policy consequences that have seriously alienated a solid majority of the country. This is all on the leadership of that party for failing to address this problem, and especially on his selfish handlers, for hiding the truth and propping him up in order to maintain their own grip on power.
There were already ample conditions based on his action or inaction in maintaining the territorial integrity of the country, but the votes aren’t there for impeachment. However, they should at least see this crisis as an opportunity to now deal with a very serious problem. If they instead go about attacking the prosecutor, (who was appointed by his own justice department) in an effort to delegitimize his report, or attempt to ride it out, relying on a pliable media to make it disappear, it won’t work. They will not only seriously erode their own prospects, but also make them culpable in this disaster.
Even if you loathe Donald Trump, who by no means is empowered by these conditions, that is not the real choice that has to be made. Indeed it is conceivable, if not likely, that neither man will be on the ballot by November. The problem is more fundamental, and apolitical. We have a President who clearly lacks the cognitive competence to remain in office. We see him further deteriorating before our eyes, as does the entire world, including a number of powerful bad actors. They would be foolish not to seize the opportunity afforded them by a dysfunctional government, and worse, if they do act, we are not in a position to do a damn thing about it. We may further stumble into a war that no one wants, and which we are simply not prepared for. If this situation is not ameliorated soon, there are surely darker days ahead.
The likelihood of different presidential candidates in November is increasing. If Biden stetps down and the Supreme Court refuses to consider Trump's immunity claim it all may change.