Day 59 of the Trump presidency is arguably playing out as the most momentous day yet. Most of the focus has been on the House committee room where FBI Jim Comey has been testifying all day. I have mixed feelings about the Comey hoopla, and here's why.
Comey made three comments that people are talking about. None of them -- in my opinion -- were really that shocking. First and foremost, the FBI chief said he loathes the New England Patriots, which means he has something in common with every breathing mammal south of Bridgeport. OK, more seriously, Comey also said there's no proof that former President Obama, or anyone else, had a "tapp" on Trump Tower. Didn't everyone -- and when I say everyone, I'm including Mongolian cave dwellers and that squirrel right outside your office window -- already know this?
The third thing carried a lot more heft, which is that the FBI has an active investigation into whether the Trump campaign in any way colluded with Russians who hacked into Hillary Clinton-related computer communications in their bid to tip the 2016 election. Even this, however, has long been suspected by people paying close attention to the Russian matter -- especially given the skeezy behavior of insiders like former campaign manager Paul Manafort and short-timer national security adviser Mike Flynn. I hope the FBI, congressional probers, and the American people get to the bottom of every last thing that happened involving Russia and Team Trump. That said, I still also worry that people on the left and deflated Hillary fans (not always the same thing...trust me on this) are hitching too much of their hope to the Russia wagon. This is surely more than Obama's birth certificate, but it may well prove NOT to be the next Watergate. Let's find out.
In the meantime, elsewhere in the U.S. Capitol, another hearing was underway that could determine -- for only the next 30 or 40 years or so -- whether American women can hold onto their reproductive rights, whether we're going to remain serious about stopping polluters, and whether big corporations can continue to treat U.S. workers like so much cannon fodder. The confirmation hearing for would-be Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch was in reality the biggest thing going down in the U.S. of A. on Monday.
This was no Page A17 story, so why was everyone treating it as such? Especially the Democratic Party -- which is about to blow the chance of a lifetime, a chance to tell America that the people's rights matter more than those of Big Business and billionaire campaign donors.
When did Democrats become the Battered Spouse Party? Why -- after a year of political abuse from Republicans who refused to provide Judge Merrick Garland, one of the most decent jurists ever nominated for the High Court, with so much as a 10-minute hearing -- do the Democrats have no plan for fighting back? When Gorsuch was nominated in late January, I noted the importance of taking a stand against the GOP's shocking breach of its Constitutional responsibility, that what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his minions pulled in 2016 was neither normal nor acceptable.
They obviously weren't listening! The ink was barely dry on that piece when my cable TV was flooded with ads from one former lawyer in the Obama administration on what a great guy Gorsuch is; another, who left the Democratic fold to make big bucks representing that same corporations that Gorsuch and his ilk worship, wrote a supportive op-ed in the New York Times. At today's hearing, the conservative appeals court judge even got a friendly introduction from his home state of Colorado's Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet (who swears he's still undecided on his vote...whatevs). Democratic senators facing re-election in 2018 in states that Trump won are said to be petrified about opposing this "nice guy" who surely is that best choice that our bizzaro new president could have offered the nation.
I hate to break it to you, Democratic senators, but Neil Gorsuch is not a nice guy, unless the bar for "nice" has suddenly been lowered to smiling and slowing down to 15 mph while running over pedestrians. Because of what happened last year with the Garland nomination, Democrats should oppose Gorsuch on principle...but it's much more than that. A Supreme Court with Neil Gorsuch on it would be a disaster for the little guy in America.
Ask Alphonse Maddin, a truck driver whose brakes froze in frigid weather, and, after shivering for several hours waiting for a repair truck, abandoned the trailer and drove to a gas station -- a sane decision for which Maddin's employer unceremoniously fired him. Two appeals judges on the 10th Circuit ordered Maddin rehired, while only Gorsuch sided with the corporation. "It might be fair to ask whether TransAm's decision was a wise or kind one," Gorsuch wrote. "But it's not our job to answer questions like that. Our only task is to decide whether the decision was an illegal one."
It's not a coincidence that in Judge Gorsuch's America, the big corporation is right again and again and again. And Gorsuch has said in the past that he'd likely overturn the so-called Chevron doctrine -- a 1984 court ruling that has given federal regulatory agencies the ability to better regulate pollution from power plants or crooked bankers. He'd make it harder to sue for stock fraud. The electrocuted mining worker? You'll be shocked to learn that Gorsuch sided with the bosses on that one, too.
If you're one of the people who thinks that Big Business just can't get a break in 21st Century America, and that the sharp-right turn toward corporate personhood, including the political big-money bonanza of Citizens United, under the Roberts Court just hasn't gone far-right enough, than Neil Gorsuch is your man. If you care about the rights of everyday workers like Alphonse Maddin, or share the concerns of women that Gorsuch may vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, and if you want to see a level playing field in America for the rest of the first half of this century, then now is the time to fight like hell.
Let's be clear: Neil Gorsuch will be confirmed. He'll either be confirmed with the votes of cowardly, spineless Democrats, or he'll be confirmed when Republicans -- shocked and frustrated by the ferocity of Democratic resistance -- take the so-called "nuclear option" that will end the ability of filibustering a Supreme Court pick.
But if there was ever a time when the notion that a lost cause is the only cause worth fighting for -- the famous dictum from the 1939 movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington -- was in play, that moment is now. Because if the Democrats don't fight Neil Gorsuch, the truck drivers and the miners and the swindled widows of America will have to wonder if the party will ever fight for them. And it's a damn good question.