I Only Ask This: Be Consistent

As I read the news this morning, one incident of many from this administration sticks in my craw: the Republican leadership in the Senate voting to censure (silence) Sen. Eliz. Warren because she had the temerity to read a letter from the widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Mrs. Coretta Scott King. In the letter, King writes that Sessions’s ascension to the federal bench “simply cannot be allowed to happen,” arguing that as a U.S. attorney, the Alabama lawmaker pursued “politically-motivated voting fraud prosecutions” and that he “lacks the temperament, fairness and judgment to be a federal judge.” She said Sessions’s conduct in prosecuting civil rights leaders in a voting-fraud case “raises serious questions about his commitment to the protection of the voting rights of all American citizens.” The letter originally was written to the Senate Judiciary Committee in opposition to Sessions’s 1986 nomination to be a federal judge. The letter was never entered into the congressional record by then-Judiciary Committee Chair Strom Thurmond.

Why was she censured? Senate Rule XIX, which states “2. No Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.”

There’s a slight problem here: the senator in question is a nominee to lead an executive department! Think about this for a minute: That rule would prohibit any negative information about a sitting senator nominated to any position that required confirmation, which makes absolutely no sense at all. In fact, that’s why the rule is seldom invoked. The rule came about in February 1902 when a feud was escalating between the two Democratic senators from South Carolina. Benjamin Tillman, the senior senator and something of a political boss in the state, had grown angry that John McLaurin, his protege, was allowing Senate Republicans to court him on some issues, including the annexation of the Philippines. Furious that McLaurin was colluding with the other side of the aisle, Tillman used a Feb. 22, 1902, speech on the Senate floor to harangue the younger senator. Gesturing toward McLaurin’s empty chair, Tillman accused his counterpart of treachery and corruption, saying he had succumbed to “improper influences,” according to a Senate history of the dispute. When McLaurin caught wind of Tillman’s remarks, he rushed into the chamber and shouted that Tillman was telling a “willful, malicious and deliberate lie.” A fistfight erupted. This led to the rule.

The intent was not to stifle debate about the qualifications and demeanor of a candidate to head an executive department.

Further, another Democratic senator was able to read from the same letter (albeit some different portions) later in the debate. Without being censured.

Now, imagine if President Obama had nominated the Jessie Jackson, Al Sharpton, or even (were he still alive) Senator Edward Kennedy to head the Justice Department. What would the Republicans have done or said? What comments would they have made on the Senate floor about these men?

This is why I call bullshit on the Republican Party. I call inconsistency. I call putting party above the people.  I even call, for some, sheer racism.

When Obama was President, every nominee was thoroughly investigated. Every nominee had to be clear of conflicts of interest. Every nominee had to be qualified. As for the President, every misstep was investigated. Even every non-misstep was investigated.

So why isn’t the same Congress holding President Trump to the same standard? I can think of only two reasons:

  1. He’s Republican. After all, if he’s from the same party — if he’s a Republican — we don’t need to investigate him or his nominees because Republican’s never violate the law or cheat or …* . Never mind of course, that 50 years of investigation of Democratic Presidents, from Johnson on, have only found a stain on a dress, whereas investigations into Republican Presidents have found little things like Watergate and Iran-Contra. No, Republican’s never abuse the office of President. [*: IOIDBAR: It’s OK if done by a Republican]
  2. He’s White. I don’t like saying this, but there is the belief that many Republicans didn’t trust Obama because he was black. If you eliminate the Republican Pass above, it is the only explanation that remains.

Both reasons are wrong. The role of Congress is to scrutinize and reign in the power of the President. The Republican Congress did that consistently with Obama. There is absolutely no reason they shouldn’t be doing the same with Trump. If they don’t, they should be removed from office for not doing their job.

When you look at an action of Congress, ask if they would have behaved the same way if President Obama had done the action or if it was a nominee of President Obama. If not, it is IOIDBAR or worse.