A Cruel Summer of Supreme Consequences

Illustration by Max Burbank


Monday night, President Trump ended the suspense and gave Brett Kavanaugh the rose. It’s hard to say just what about the young circuit judge Trump dug the most, except that it’s really not. The president’s “short list” was written by the Federalist Society — a cabal of noted, elderly, white male conservatives, tin foil-fedora-wearing Libertarians, and Skull and Bones spanking enthusiasts. You know everyone on that list was an Illuminati spite golem constructed of cruelty and mayonnaise. Just one, however, had written an article for the Minnesota Law Review in 2009 laying the groundwork for Rudy Giuliani’s claim that a sitting president could murder someone in the oval office and not be charged with a crime.

Kavanaugh is on record, a New York Times article of July 10 noted, advocating that Congress “consider a law exempting a president — while in office — from criminal prosecution and investigation, including from questioning by criminal prosecutors or defense counsel.” Italics added by ME because that’s WHY TRUMP NOMINATED KAVANAUGH!

When I first started planning this column, I intended to write about throwing toddlers in dog cages and how the phrase “Tender Age Detention Facilities” can only be explained by all of us being trapped in a simulation designed by a malevolent and insane supercomputer. Then on Wed., June 27, Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy announced his retirement. How many god-awful, soul-crushing “news items” can a person focus on? Well, all of them, really, if you don’t sleep — something I’ve mostly given up on, but my column is 1,000 words, give or take. I like to go with the most recent atrocity, always assuming Trump hasn’t Thanos-snapped his wee little fingers since I turned this article in, erasing half of all sentient life from existence, and yes, EVEN YOUNG PETER PARKER, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN!

Should I have said spoiler alert? “Avengers: Infinity War” has been out for two-and-a-half months.

I mean, who could have imagined this scenario (with the possible exception of anyone with a functioning brainstem and a junior high school knowledge of basic civics, which admittedly is about a third of registered voters)? I’m looking at you, Susan Sarandon!

PERSPECTIVE: Express Yourselves

And it’s not just placing the president squarely above all law for the next 25 or so years that hangs in the balance. It’s Roe V. Wade, marriage equality, and a codified right to discriminate against people based on your totally undefined, yet deeply held, religious beliefs — not to mention asking three-year-olds to serve as their own attorneys (and testify in a language they don’t speak) about being separated from their parents, maybe forever, and kept in DOG CAGES until the appropriate, Betsy DeVos-connected, “nonprofit” adoption agency gobbles them up and farms them out to deserving white, Evangelical Republicans who will presumably have them BLEACHED to avoid dangerously embarrassing situations when dining at the local WAFFLE HOUSE!

Don’t fact check that last paragraph. Parts of it are not, strictly speaking, verifiable. You’d be surprised at how few parts.

But hang on. Maybe things aren’t as dire as they first appear. Maybe it’s not time for full-on, brain-melting panic. Consider Senator Dianne Feinstein’s carefully argued tweet: “If the Senate needed to wait nine months when Justice Scalia died, then it surely needs to wait four months now. If the American people deserved to have their voices heard then, they deserve to have their voices heard now.”

Senator Cory Booker agreed that the Senate should abide by the rule set by majority leader McConnell, and furthermore, since the president was the subject of an ongoing investigation that could likely end up before the Supreme Court, any SCOTUS nomination should be “delayed until the Mueller investigation is concluded.” At very least, any Supreme Court Justice appointed by Trump would need to recuse themselves from cases involving the investigation, right? Any reasonable person would have to agree.

Illustration by Max Burbank

Let’s take a brief pause and engage in a thought experiment: Suppose a work acquaintance discovered you loved chess, a passion he shares. He sends an email challenging you to a friendly game, but oddly attaches a PDF of the rules and asks that you read them thoroughly, as he is a real “stickler” about “proper play.” Your acquaintance arrives, sees no chess clock, and demands you produce one or forfeit. You have barely begun to respond that chess clocks are only required for tournament play, when he produces a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire “Lucille”-style and smashes your chess set to bits. While you’re saying, “You watch ‘Walking Dead?’ ” he uses Lucille to break your jaw and, as you spit bloody teeth, informs you common civility requires you thank him for not killing you, and also, “Checkmate.”

Dianne Feinstein and Cory Booker and a whole lot of thoughtful, well-intentioned Democrats who got all bent out of shape when an Oscar-winning actor used the F-word, and think Sarah Huckabee Sanders being asked to leave the Red Hen without finishing her meal is why Trump is going to get re-elected, are all waiting for the Republicans to play chess by the rules, which is something that will never happen. Or it might — but your rules are on that PDF, and theirs is a baseball bat named “Lucille.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell conceives of the Supreme Court, and all politics, as a chess game with two sets of rules, one of which is a contact sport. Quite likely he’s never watched “The Walking Dead.” But if he does find time in retirement, I think he’ll like it. I imagine he’ll find Negan a kindred spirit. And he’ll certainly understand how Lucille plays chess.

Blues legend B.B. King had a guitar also named “Lucille’ — but he was, by all accounts, a lovely soul and never beat anyone to death with it. If I had to guess, I’d say it was unlikely an African American musician who lived through the civil rights era was a Republican, but he used to jam with Nixon’s master dirty trickster and Roger Stone mentor, Lee Atwater, so who knows what the hell anything means? Maybe King was laughing. ’Cause sometimes laughing in the face of power is all you can do. Maybe the devil plays a longer game than chess, a computer simulation, the rules of which can be rewritten on the fly. Cross your fingers and pray it’s open-source.

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