John Colson: ‘Worst week’ should put Kavanaugh on hold
Hit & Run
We as a nation seem to be stuck on a single rail of thought these days, as we contemplate the unraveling of the deceitful, paranoid and corrupt web of influence that holds sway in today’s White House.
In what has widely been described as President Donald Trump’s “worst week ever” since he managed to win the presidency, we saw two of his former close aides — Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen — either convicted (Manafort, eight counts of fraud) or plead guilty (Cohen, also eight counts, including campaign finance law violations) in court.
There are, of course, other reasons it was such a bad week for Trump.
For example, his longtime political chum David Pecker (why, oh why did he not change that unfortunate name at some point?), head of the AMI publishing house that owns the National Enquirer, is now cooperating with prosecutors concerning his role in buying and killing stories about women who claimed to have had illicit affairs with Trump and then having been paid hush money in order to keep the news from the public.
These acts by Pecker are, at the least, just one more example of Trump’s contempt for the rule of law and his conviction that he is above the law anyway, and at the worst are examples of violations of campaign spending laws in order to deceive the electorate and win election.
On a less legalistic note, but completely bereft of common decency and political smarts, there is Trump’s initial refusal, on Monday, to publicly praise the political career and legacy of the late Sen. John McCain of Arizona, despite pressure from Trump’s own staff that some sort of statement must be issued. (I later learned that the president did issue a rather tepid, insubstantial statement later in the day, well after my deadline for this column.)
Trump, of course, derisively referred to McCain’s time as a POW in Vietnam during the 2016 presidential race, proclaiming, “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”
Imagine the reaction of Republicans (pre-Trump, naturally) if Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton had made such an insane remark. We would have heard calls for their dismissal from public office, if not their public beheading.
Trump’s callous and unjustifiable attitude and remarks about McCain, both during the campaign and this week, brought to my mind the deaths in 1994 of 14 firefighters bravely battling the Storm King Fire in West Glenwood Springs, another case where tragic results came from undeniable bravery.
Imagine the condemnation had some know-nothing treated those firefighters as Trump has treated McCain, with some statement about how “they’re not heroes. They died. I like firefighters who don’t get killed.”
One result of these and other outrageous actions and developments from the White House are forcing us, as a nation, to confront what I view as the unavoidable need to at least delay any confirmation hearings for Supreme Court wannabe Brett Kavanaugh.
Convictions and guilty pleas from two of Trump’s former close advisers would seem to be enough to ensure that something as important as a nomination for lifetime membership on the highest court in the land cannot be treated simply as business as usual.
As has been pointed out in numerous opinion pieces and news stories over the past week, Kavanaugh has made it pretty clear that he now feels that a sitting president cannot be indicted and prosecuted for crimes committed by that president while in office.
This flies in the face of Kavanaugh’s own statement back in the 1990s, when he was all gung-ho to prosecute then-President Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair and served on the staff of Independent Counsel Ken Starr. At the time, in a college campus radio show, Kavanaugh went to great lengths to emphasize how Clinton’s affair constituted a moral crisis that could only be answered by criminal prosecution and/or impeachment.
Never mind that Clinton’s consensual dallying with a White House intern was in no way as damaging to our nation as what Trump has done to our political culture, to our environmental stewardship, to our international reputation as a nation of laws, to … well, the list is long, too long, to be fully aired here.
But Kavanaugh has undergone a change in heart, apparently, and now believes that a sitting president cannot be punished for crimes while in office, except by impeachment through Congressional action.
This opens up the possibility of Trump being implicated in crimes that definitely meet the standard of “high crimes and misdemeanors” laid out in the section of the U.S. Constitution dealing with impeachment, but being let off the hook by the lap-dog Republican leadership in Congress.
Democrats already are questioning Kavanaugh on these and other points, in advance of confirmation hearings before the U.S. Senate, out of concern that Trump is in effect trying to set up a get-out-of-jail-free arrangement just in case things keep going wrong for his presidency.
Kavanaugh, in written statements, has indicated he believes that only Congress can sit in judgement on a sitting president, a convenient dodge indeed. Because he certainly is as aware as anyone that this Congress shows no signs of even disagreeing with Trump’s more outrageous ideas and proposals, much less holding him accountable for criminal conduct.
My conclusion is that Kavanaugh’s nomination must be put on hold to await further developments in the Trump-spawned political saga.
After all, the Republican leadership in Congress refused to even hold hearings on Obama’s 2016 Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, for no good reason. So they can’t in good conscience object to holding up on Kavanaugh’s confirmation, can they?
As a final word, don’t forget there are only 70 days left before the Nov. 6 election day, and it is incumbent upon all of us to get out there and vote if we want our country to get back on track.
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