A Democratic Senator, a Republican Senator, and a newly sworn in Supreme Court justice walk into a bar.
“Gimme a shot and a beer,” the Democrat says, a look of defeat and disgust on his face.
“Kindly pour me a glass of merlot,” the Republican says, with more than a trace of smugness.
The Supreme Court justice, who looks like he’s been in a fist fight, thinks for a moment. “Can you make a kamikaze?”
As for me, I’ll have what he’s having. I’m not much into adult beverages, but given the state of our national affairs in Washington, I think I need a drink.
I’ve been around a long time, not long enough to acquire much wisdom but certainly long enough to remember a better time. To paraphrase the insurance commercial on television, I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two.
One of the things I have seen is a stunningly swift descent into incivility unlike anything in modern times. Disagree with me if you must, but if you do I will have to hate you for it. It’s the new normal.
It’s an attitude that starts at the top. It is fostered by our national leaders: the tweeter in chief in the White House and the legislators who yell at each other rather than seek common ground.
The ability to agree without being disagreeable seems like a quaint notion from an earlier time. It’s something you rarely see these days. It’s sort of like spotting a deer strapped to a Cadillac Escalade. You know it must happen occasionally, but never when you’re around to witness it.
Former Vice President Joe Biden and the late Sen. John McCain, though not of the same party, shared a genuine affection for each other. Contrast that with the contempt we saw on display during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Kavanaugh hearing. There wasn’t much love in the room.
Politicians have stabbed each other in the back since there have been politicians (et tu, Brutus?), but today we see and hear a vile edge that should sicken us all.
The President goes out of his way to alienate and upset his enemies, usually in the middle of the night, and his base loves it. On Capitol Hill, if Congress is really tending efficiently to the nation’s business, legislators’ apparent efforts to conceal their hard work and collegiality are proving effective.
I’m not suggesting that our elected leaders have to be pals to tend to the task we’ve assigned them. A certain tension is not a bad thing provided both sides of a controversial issue recognize that compromise and mutual respect usually produce the best result.
Instead we get mutual distrust, even hatred. The majority is a bunch of bullies taking their marching orders from the most unconventional president in our history. The minority, what we used to charmingly call the loyal opposition, is a band of evil obstructionists unable and unwilling to move past the 2016 election. Take your pick.
This is how we drain the swamp?
We are at a point in Washington where a good idea is torpedoed because the other side thought of it first.
This is how we govern?
Most of us have an opinion about our newest Supreme Court justice, Brett Kavanaugh, and whether he is guilty of the abuse he was accused of as a young man.
But whichever way we lean, there is no escaping the unintended consequences of his confirmation. They will linger for years to come. The bitterness engendered by the process will be remembered every time the court hands down a 5-4 vote. It will be revisited every time Justice Kavanaugh drafts a majority opinion.
And it will be recalled when honorable people with no youthful indiscretions to answer for, yet fearful that someone somewhere will dig up something, deliberate long and hard about whether to enter public service. Will they take a pass?
The Kavanaugh confirmation hearing made for great theater. It was far more entertaining than watching “The Young and the Restless.” The players were certainly restless but hardly any were young.
For what it’s worth, and it’s not worth much, my eternal search for the silver lining in all the ugliness has produced this nugget: as far as I can tell, for the first time in our nation’s history we have a United States Supreme Court justice named Brett.
Now we need to add another woman to the court. When the next nomination comes, I hope the nominee is a female named Ashley. Or Kelley. Or Kaitlyn. There’s a good chance she’ll be young.
In the executive branch we haven’t elected a president in his early 40s since John Kennedy. Those who would govern us need to get less old and less cranky. What could it hurt? Look at the mess my generation has produced.
In the meantime, anybody know how to make a kamikaze?
Thomas Walton is the retired Editor and Vice President of The Blade. His column appears every other Sunday. His radio commentary, “Life As We Know It,” can be heard on WGTE public radio every Monday at 5:44 p.m. during “All Things Considered.” Contact him at email@example.com.
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