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In Theory

August 9, 2018
By Darren Fraser , Emmetsburg News

Senator Chuck Grassley chairs the Senate's Committee on the Judiciary. This committee vets Supreme Court nominees. There are 21 committee members from both parties.

During his townhall meeting at the Palo Alto County Courthouse last Monday, Grassley explained the committee has requested in excess of one million documents from the National Archive relating to Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump's nominee for associate justice of the Supreme Court.

Grassley said his committee hopes to review the documents by September.

The senators will not undertake this Herculean labor themselves. Senators maintain staffs that may have as many as 25 members. Assuming each committee member has a staff of 25, that means 525 individuals, including the senators, will be responsible for reviewing one million plus documents or 1,905 documents per individual. In theory, it is doable.

I do not deny the possibility outside experts are brought in to review the curricula vitae of SCOTUS nominees. Nor do I question the diligence of senate staffers tapped to pour over Kavanaugh's opus. What I do find incredulous is Grassley's reply to my question during the media Q&A after the townhall meeting.

I asked the senator if it is possible, in this partisan-charged climate, for the judiciary committee to rise above politics and review Kavanaugh's credentials objectively and with an eye toward what is the most important qualification for a Supreme Court judge the unbiased, dispassionate and deliberate interpretation of the law.

Grassley replied, "We, as senators, regardless of the political environment we are in, have a responsibility to have a fair and thorough vetting of any candidate to be on the United States Senate [sic]." In theory, I agree.

In reality, this does not happen. In March 2016, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill the Court vacancy created by Antonin Scalia's death. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to consider Garrick. He postponed any action until after the November election.

During the townhall meeting, Grassley fielded questions that highlighted the differences between theory and reality. An audience member asked, not rhetorically, when will a Washington politician be arrested for committing a felony? The senator replied that in an ideal world, every person should be treated equally in the eyes of the law. Because, in theory, this is exactly what the Constitution requires.

In theory, any constituent with a concern or grievance should be able to find redress for an issue from his or her elected representative. In reality, contacting one's congressmember does not typically result in a solution or even provide any salve. In reality, a staffer will answer the phone and promise to inform the congressmember of the issue. Contacting the congressmember through his or her website invariably elicits an automated reply thanking and assuring the constituent the congressmember will be in touch. (Touching typically involves being touched for a campaign contribution.)

In reality, I am neither dismayed nor put off by the reality of politics. In fact, I am more determined than ever to make my voice heard. In theory, we all have a voice in the decisions that govern our lives. In reality, we do; we just have to work hard to make it a reality.



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