Did you find that debate as painful to watch as I did?
President Trump was beyond rude with his constant interruptions. While his target was Joe Biden, he deprived all of us of the opportunity to hear a clear, decisive exchange on the two candidates’ very different records, philosophies, and policy ideas.
In my view, Trump did himself no favors. He seemed to have some strong points to make, but by constantly intruding, he ended up struggling to be heard over Biden, and thereby stepped on many of his own lines.
Former Vice President Biden, for his part, resorted to childish name-calling, ranging from the petulant—calling Trump a “fool” and a “clown”—to the vicious: “liar” and “racist.” And he topped it off by telling the President to “shut up, man.”
All in all, it was an appalling demonstration of the very breakdown in civil discourse that we’ve been lamenting on this blog site.
Which brings us to the coming battle over Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Because if the past is prologue, we are in for a nastiness that will make the other night’s debate seem like an afternoon tea. And in this context, sad to say, the viciousness has been all on one side.
I can think of not one instance in recent years where Republican senators engaged in protracted personal attacks against a Democratic president’s nominee. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan—all with well-known liberal credentials when they were nominated—sailed through with minimal Republican opposition, and relatively mild questioning by GOP senators.
Contrast that with how Democratic senators have repeatedly dragged Republican nominees through the mud, beginning with the disgraceful character assassination against Judge Robert Bork in 1987. Their preferred line of attack in the years since—smearing male Republican nominees with long ago, unreported, unsubstantiated allegations of sexual misbehavior toward women—will not be available to them now as they grill a female nominee.
Perhaps they will resort—as they did when Barrett was nominated for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017—to attacking her Catholic faith. They might think twice about that, however, given how soundly Sen. Dianne Feinstein was rebuked for it then—not only by Catholics, but by many principled people of varying faiths.
Perhaps instead they will disparage her family life. This is already happening in the blogosphere—with absurd characterizations of her and her husband’s loving adoption of two Haitian children as “racist.” Doubtless, some who favor abortion to reduce the numbers of disabled children—another manifestation of how the abortion mentality targets the victims, rather than the causes of human suffering—will fault Barrett for bringing a Down Syndrome child into the world.
And then there is the ridiculous effort to portray this very accomplished professional woman as a “Handmaid’s Tale” type of wife, totally subservient to her husband in all things, in line with Margaret Atwood’s fairy tale novel that’s treated like scriptural truth by radical feminists.
In fact, Amy Coney Barrett is the very model of what a true feminist would admire—balancing an extraordinarily successful legal career with a strong marriage and a commitment to motherhood. But that is not admired in radical feminist circles where—in addition to perceiving Barrett as being on the “wrong” side of issues like abortion—motherhood and marriage are seen as impediments to, rather than components of, a woman’s fulfillment.
Hopefully, Senate Democrats will see the folly of employing such lines of attack. Even Joe Biden has acknowledged that he is “not opposed to the justice (sic), she seems like a fine person.” They should stick to relevant questions for Judge Barrett about her judicial philosophy; and it is certainly legitimate for them to try to make the case, as Biden did, that Justice Ginsburg’s seat should not be filled until after the election.
But they should, for once, avoid bringing the politics of personal destruction into the confirmation process. It demeans them, it demeans the Senate, and it only further erodes any semblance of the civil discourse that we so desperately need right now.