Die on a Mountain

April 30, 2016

Several years ago I was sitting in an interminable board meeting. (I used to do that. Often!) An agenda item involved significant religious issues. An “aye” vote would have revved up many local Rabbis. I found myself in the thick of the discussion, taking an unexpected position. Then, a very wise man* who I’ve known since I was a young teenager piped up: “My dear, suffering wife,” he said, “will ask me on something like this, David, are you going to die on a mountain over this?” The topic was tabled within about 60 seconds, and never raised again.

I thought about Dying on the Mountain Moments when I saw a post on FB which claimed Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders voted consistently 93% of the time, while both were in the Senate. I went to the source, a New York Times piece from almost a year ago, by Derek Willis, titled The Senate Votes That Divided Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

The 93% figure is correct, but incomplete. As Mr. Willis notes, “[t]he 31 times that Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders disagreed happened to be on some the biggest issues of the day, including measures on continuing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an immigration reform bill and bank bailouts during the depths of the Great Recession.” Not all votes are equal!

Notwithstanding material differences, are people who support Senator Sanders really ready to die on a mountain—by not voting in the general election, or by voting for Donald Trump—if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic Party nominee? Really?

I’m an attorney, so for me very much about who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue relates to the U.S. Supreme Court and the lesser federal courts. (It’s the law of the instrument concept.) In my lifetime 26 men and four women have served on the Supreme Court. Seventeen were appointed by Republican presidents. Five of the R appointees—Chief Justice Warren, and Justices Brennan, Blackmun, Stevens, and Souter—turned Left, while two D appointees—Justices Frankfurter and White—turned Right. (No, Justice Kennedy is not a Leftie, despite his evident soft spot on same sex issues, and Chief Justice Roberts is not either, despite his exceptional civility and respect for the other branches of the government.)

So, with adjustments, there’s a fair balance. But look at the trend line. Since President Richard Nixon appointed Chief Justice Warren Burger in 1969, Republican presidents have appointed 12 of the last 16 justices, and the last R appointee who turned Left was appointed more than 25 years ago, and has been off the bench for almost seven years.

Hillary Clinton is, by qualifications, a rare bird. Only eight presidents have been cabinet secretaries. Six have been Secretary of State, and those six included Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Adams (Quincy), Van Buren, and Buchanan (who was selected 160 years ago). No modern-era president has served in the cabinet and the Congress and, of course, no president lived in the White House for eight years before she was elected.

So is it the honesty thing? Read Hillary Clinton Is Fundamentally Honest and Trustworthy by Kevin Drum for Mother Jones, or This may shock you: Hillary Clinton is fundamentally honest by Jill Abramson for The Guardian. Imagine, a media meme which is unsupported by facts.

Don’t like those votes on which she and Senator Sanders differ? OK. Iraq and Afghanistan. Do you think President Trump will better handle America’s foreign relations? Immigration. You’d like to have President Trump build the wall and keep out anyone who makes Trump-ites uncomfortable? Bank bailouts. Do you want to let President Trump run the country like he has run his own businesses? (And I’m sorry, but I don’t trust Senator Sanders on guns. I just don’t.)

Look, Hillary Clinton is a politician. OK. She’s imperfect, like anyone who must make choices on a grand scale. And maybe she’s more calculating than many. (I suspect she’s just less smooth about hiding the cyphering.)

So, never mind qualifications, honesty, or issues. The Court. Again. Just exactly what sort of person will Donald Trump appoint to replace Justice Antonin Scalia? Well, there’s talk about his sister, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, who serves on the Third Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, and is 79-years-old. Roger Stone, a Trump ally, says it will be Judge Andrew Napolitano, who was a New Jersey trial court judge for eight years and is, now, a Fox News pontificator.

Maybe a President Trump will surprise all of us with respectable, middle of the road choices. And maybe those things I see outside my window are pink pigs, soaring away from me.

*Of blessed memory.

Leave a Reply