Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) last week told reporters that President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, no matter who he or she might be, “will bear some resemblance to a pinata” during the confirmation process. This didn’t sit right with Democrats, who interpreted Cornyn’s comments as something akin to a threat.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) went to the chamber floor yesterday to argue the “pinata” comments were simply misunderstood – because Senate Republicans are really just looking out for the unnamed nominee’s best interests. From the Congressional Record:
“After all, the whole point of deferring the nomination and confirmation process [until 2017] is to limit the mistreatment of any nominee, as Senator Cornyn suggested in his remarks. This unfounded accusation is also deeply ironic, coming from the party that stooped to the character assassination of Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas.“If there is anyone who has been treated like a pinata in this debate, it has been Senator Grassley.”
I’m not sure which is more alarming: the ridiculousness of Hatch’s argument or the fact that he was able to deliver these remarks with a straight face.
Just a week after some GOP senators were willing to acknowledge the party’s nakedly partisan tactics, Orrin Hatch would have the public believe Senate Republicans really just want to “limit the mistreatment” of Obama’s court nominee. Is this about politics? Heaven forbid! Hatch and his colleagues aren’t focused on the future of the court, so much as they’re deeply concerned with the eventual nominee’s feelings.
Because if there’s one thing Senate Republicans have proven throughout the Obama era (and continue to demonstrate), it’s their capacity for empathy towards high-profile White House nominees. Republicans are just so darned polite and big-hearted, they can’t bear to think about a judge facing months of attacks … from other Republicans.
As for Hatch’s reference to Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas, it’s worth remembering, in case the senator has forgotten, that both Bork and Thomas were given confirmation hearings and floor votes, which are precisely the steps Hatch and his cohorts refuse to even consider as part of their unprecedented blockade. (Thomas was even confirmed, which hardly represents mistreatment.)
And if Hatch sees Grassley as some kind of victim, he’s clearly not paying close enough attention.
Senate Republicans have had more than a month to come up with coherent arguments to justify the first-ever Senate blockade against any Supreme Court nominee. If the best they can come up with is “we’re just being nice to the president’s choice,” it’s a reminder of the underlying bankruptcy of their entire gambit.