Op-ed: The Supreme games

  • By Bob Franken
  • Saturday, February 4, 2017 10:07pm
  • Opinion

Back when I was going through my CNN phase, I was covering a major espionage case. The counterintelligence peeps were holding an alleged spy in a secret location. On a day when he was due for a hearing, I had found out where he was being held: a jail in a rural Maryland county not far from Washington, D.C. We decided to pull a fast one and shoot some video of him that we otherwise would not get.

“You stay here, while I look around,” I said to my camera crew in a hushed voice. Then, doing my best imitation of Inspector Clouseau, I skulked around the property to determine the best spot from which to tape the deputies and agents as they took the accused to their vehicle for the ride to his Washington court hearing. I was chortling away about how surprised they’d be. My reverie was interrupted when I heard a voice: “Hey.” It was a deputy from the jail. “I think you should know you’ve set off about a dozen sensors.”

Happily, they got a good laugh out of it and took pity on me, showing us a vantage point where we could get the money shot. Score one for the klutzo reporter.

I hate to admit it, but the klutzo president was able to pull a fast one way better than I did. True, the first days of the Trump administration have been a total train wreck — or a plane wreck in the case of the immigration blockade. (I don’t want to call it a “ban,” because press secretary Sean Spicer argues that it is not a “ban,” even though his boss, President Donald Trump, calls it one.)

But setting aside the hard-right orientation of his Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, Trump managed to put on a glitzy show with an announcement that was relatively sane-looking. More to the point, he pulled off an elaborate smooth move to hide the identity of his final pick and keep away reporters, aka “dishonest media,” who were camped out at the homes of the four perceived finalists. In Boulder, Colorado — where Gorsuch lives as possibly the only conservative in the Boulder area — he and his wife, Louise, were instructed to walk over to a neighbor’s house. There they met up with White House operatives, snuck into vehicles and were driven over back roads to a government plane waiting at a private airport. Then it was on to Washington, not to be seen by outsiders until they stepped through the doorway as part of the Donald Trump show on prime-time network TV.

POTUS was delighted at the game: “So, was that a surprise?” Trump exclaimed, “Was it?” Well, not really. He had promised he’d come up with a learned right-winger to replace “the late, great Justice Antonin Scalia.”

Even the most solemn moments for Donald Trump sound like a lounge act. But Gorsuch was the evening’s featured performer. He’s perhaps even more reactionary than Scalia, but he’s smooth as silk. For ultraconservatives, he hits all the right notes.

The Democrats are providing a lot of dissonance, of course. That’s partially because of the legal philosophies Gorsuch espouses. They despise them, but perhaps more than that, they bitterly resent the Republicans’ stonewalling of President Barack Obama’s pick, Merrick Garland. There are strong indications that they’ll filibuster Gorsuch just for spite. It would take 60 votes to stop that.

President Trump insists that if it happens, the majority Republicans should change Senate rules so that Supreme Court nominees require only a simple majority approval, the so-called nuclear option. Trump has never been a nuance kinda guy. In fairness, when the Democrats ran things, they got rid of the 60-vote rule for all White House appointments but Supreme Court justices. No matter how weighty the responsibility, someone, maybe everyone, will set off nasty alarms. Effective government is imprisoned by nasty partisanship.

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.

More in Opinion

Charlie Franz.
Point of View: Election integrity is not anti-democratic

The federalization of elections by the Freedom to Vote Act infringes on the constitutional right of states to regulate elections.

Snow blows off Mt. Roberts high above the Thane avalanche chute, where an avalanche blew across the road during a major snowstorm. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
An Alaska winter of discontent

It’s been a hard winter throughout the state.

A Uncruise Adventures cruise ship, with a fleet of kayaks in the water behind it, in the Tongass National Forest. Uncruise, a boutique local cruise ship operator, has been vocal about the importance of the intact Tongass National Forest, or SeaBank, to its business. (Photo by Ben Hamilton/courtesy Salmon State)
Alaska Voices: The dividends paid by Southeast Alaska’s ‘Seabank’ are the state’s untold secrets

Southeast Alaska’s natural capital produces economic outputs from the seafood and visitor products industries worth several billion dollars a year

Opinion: The pulse of fealty

Let’s be honest. Trump’s demands go beyond his one stated condition.

Former Gov. Frank Murkowski speaks on a range of subjects during an interview with the Juneau Empire in May 2019. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Alaska Voices: Permanent fund integrity in peril?

Alaskans need to be kept informed of what the trustees are doing with their money.

A cast member holds up a cue card in Soldotna High School’s production of "Annie" on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: Is theater dead?

“It will not be an easy task, performing CPR on this theater, but imagine the joy that you could bring to the students.”

Bjørn Olson (Photo provided)
Point of View: Homer Drawdown moves forward with climate-change solutions

Two years ago, a small group of concerned citizens decided to use this book as a guiding document

A “Vote Here” sign is seen at the City of Kenai building on Monday, Sept. 21 in Kenai, Alaska.
Voices of the Peninsula: Fight for democracy

When the Insurrection occurred on Jan. 6, 2021, it was a direct attack on our democratic rule of law.

Most Read