Wednesday, January 31, 2001

A Blow-Job By Any Other Name


Today the oath of office will be administered to George Bush by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court who might better kneel than stand before the recipient, having given the gift of office at the expense of the gift of justice. Just as Lewinsky's gift to Clinton tarnished both of them, so too does the shame of this act offend all who witness it. The difference is that in the case of Lewinsky-Clinton we were spared the necessity of watching the dirty deed itself and the Rehnquist-Bush embarrassment is not only televised nationally (and internationally), but celebrated.

There's been almost too much said about the national ability to maintain any sort of focus on an event, the "yesterday's news" and "fifteen minutes of fame" for which we are noted as a society and I'm unable to decide whether that's a good thing or a not so good thing. But it's there, topical I grant you, but there. Somehow or another we were able to sustain a degree of outrage for nearly two years over Bill Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinksy, a relatively minor offense that abridged no one's rights but held our prurient interests and caused incredible distortion of a sitting President's ability to govern at a time when the world needed his attention. Doggedly we attacked (at least some of us), righteously we attempted to impeach (at least a few of us).

Yet here we are on inauguration day, blithely accepting as our President a man who not only refused to allow votes to be counted, but threw in our faces the most blatantly unsupportable legal mumbo-jumbo to do it. He was defeated at every level short of the Supreme Court, conservative court after conservative court finding he had no case to hear, no offense to be redressed. Did he ever say "Okay, let's count the votes and see who won?" No. Instead he attacked the man who held a lead in the popular vote and a lead in the electoral vote as a "spoiler" who wouldn't step aside for the "good of the country."

Well, enough has been said about that, but for some reason it doesn't carry the outrage and staying power of a blow-job in a White House hallway. What on earth does that say about us as a nation? Nationally, we have shrugged our shoulders and focused on the upcoming Super Bowl, concerned with when Tiger Woods will win his next tournament.

A second or third-world country where the votes were not counted and the President proclaimed by his own party's nominees to their Supreme Court would be cause for withdrawing our ambassador and calling for new elections supervised by the United Nations. We smugly patronize such governments as "no better than they deserve" when we recognize them at all. And yet here in our own country, but for the buzzing of outraged e-mails, it's business as usual and yesterday's news. The Supreme Court must have known this, must have understood that they could get away with it and still interpret the law of the land as if they were untainted. A replay of O.J. Simpson, innocent by confounding the law, but a murderer all the same and so he shall always be. But this was no celebrity with a slick lawyer, this was the highest court in the land sticking a majority-Republican-conservative finger in the eye of Justice.

The act was so blatant that the five judge conservative majority wouldn't even sign it, issuing the opinion per curiam (by the court) so that individual signatures weren't required. There were of course assenting and dissenting opinions, but even the most conservative legal pundits (and God knows everyone looked at this) were unable to find a thread of support based in law. The dissenting minority was unusually scathing, admitting and abhorring the long term damage to the Court. Talk about doing a deed with your collar up, at least Monika kept the semen stained dress.

But it's done and they'll get away with it and thanks to the Florida laws that allow access to ballots after elections, the press will finally determine what the Supreme Court was too self interested to confirm---just who won the election. They'll get away with it because sensation always overcomes fact in the American consciousness and we are a distracted society, have made of ourselves a distracted society with a fifteen minute mentality.

In the meantime, I would like to suggest that we address Mr. Bush as Resident Bush and if the Florida votes fall in Gore's favor we can change it to Precedent Bush---if not, then and only then will he deserve to be called President Bush.

The five lead singers of the Supremes will still be called Justices, but the title no longer carries any honor.