CSotD: SCOTUS Hocus Pocus

Ann Telnaes (WashPo)‘s portrait of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett is harsh but revealing, not for the zippered mouth so much as for the frightened-looking spiral eyes.

Many cartoonists have depicted her as an obedient, complacent Handmaiden, from the Margaret Atwood novel or, more likely, the TV adaptation of that book.

The fact that the charismatic splinter group she belongs to, the People of Praise, referred to women as “handmaidens” until Atwood’s use of the term caused them to abandon it, is a good reason, as is their belief that wives should be subject to their husbands. It’s hardly a stretch.

At which point we could diverge into a discussion of the right-wing pushback claiming that people who oppose Barrett’s nomination hate Catholics, despite backing one for President, which the conservatives explain by insisting that a Catholic who carries a rosary and attends Mass regularly isn’t really a real Catholic, while they are avowed Christians who, instead, support a man who . . . well, never mind.

We’re not looking for logic or fairness anymore, are we?

Back on focus, and the focus specifically in those eyes, the eyes of desperate obedience, the eyes of someone not just sucking up to Sister or to Father but to an unseen greater authority, to a deity of starkly conditional love, based on a concept of right and righteousness.

It makes me wonder if, when she took the Bar Exam, she wrote “JMJ” centered at the top of the paper.

Maybe you have to have been there.


Steve Brodner (Ind) notes Senator Whitehouse’s extensive takedown of where the money came from, not just now, to promote Barrett’s nomination, but to direct the Supreme Court generally over the past several years, and it makes it clear that, just as Trump is the result, not the cause, Barrett also is simply an example of what’s going on, not the highpoint and not likely the endpoint.

The most frightening part being that the millions of dollars that are spent to influence the courts would probably not be stemmed by an amendment overturning Citizens United, because it’s not tied to campaigns.

It’s tied to lobbying, which is much harder to contain because it’s much harder to define, unless you’re able to get it framed in the form of an actual bribe.


Telnaes has done an entire portfolio of cartoons from the hearings, and this one emphasizes a point that may, in fact, be reversed November 3 but is certainly alive at the moment: We have a president who is not simply self-centered and power-hungry but genuinely has no idea how the Constitution and the government work.

Again, it’s not just this moment and this nomination. For the past three and a half years, Trump has moved forward with no regard for what his actual powers are, with no sense of the duties of the three branches of government, with no concept of the ethical or legal constraints under which his Cabinet departments and regulatory agencies are supposed to operate.

The president is not required to be a Constitutional scholar, and we’ve seen presidents learn on the job. Theodore Roosevelt famously wished he could stem the commercial slaughter of waterfowl in Florida and was surprised — and DEE-lighted! — to be told that he could simply declare wildlife reserves and national monuments, which he promptly began doing.

Other presidents have, conversely, been reined in by the counsel of their advisors, but there’s the rub: Other presidents kept councilors who would provide them with wise, well-informed advice. Wise, well-informed advice will get you fired from this White House.

Instead, Telnaes includes the complacent image of Mitch McConnell, who cheerfully, willfully allows the president to run roughshod over precedence and the rule of law.


While, as Nick Anderson (WashPo) suggests, Barrett pretends not only to not have any predetermined expectations of rulings — most nominees admittedly back away from hypotheticals — but claims objectivity while having obscured her previous statements on specific topics likely to come before the court.

She even hesitated to affirm the Constitution’s clear, solid, unmistakable determination of the date of the election. That’s text. That’s original intent. That’s objective fact with nothing hypothetical about it.

That’s someone who is determined to get an A+ on the test, not by cheating but simply by providing the correct answer even if it’s not the right answer. (Or is it vice-versa?)

Oh well. November 3 may bring some relief, and I don’t believe people are standing in line for all those hours, setting records for first-day early voting, simply to re-affirm their pleasure with the current situation.

Meanwhile, Twitter can be kind of a fun form of relief from the stress of wondering if you’re the only person who’s scratching his head.

Buttigieg has suddenly emerged as the voice of intelligent rebuttal in recent days, and here offers his response to one of the few statements Barrett ventured to make, in which she called sexual orientation a “preference” and had to later walk it back.

And Schatz properly goes after the hairspray crowd for failing to get Whitehouse’s point, while Neera Tanden questions whether someone who claims to be so completely uninformed is qualified to serve on the court.


And Peter Sagal goes full wiseass, but with an emphasis on “wise,” because he’s right about the pointlessness of the hearings, though I might have chosen something else for my uke solo.

Mentioning him brings up Saturdays on NPR which reminds me of Scott Simon which brings us back to the top of the page and Ann Telnaes, who joined Simon last night, along with Barry Blitt (New Yorker) and Pia Guerra (Nib) for what turned out to be a fascinating, well-moderated 90-minute conversation on political cartooning.

It’s a lot more uplifting that those committee hearings and is available here:

2 thoughts on “CSotD: SCOTUS Hocus Pocus

  1. Not to worry, folks. Amy Coney Barret won’t let her Catholic faith interfere with her judicial decisions. She’ll vote against health care, Unions, environmental regulations, and she’ll be a staunch defender of economic inequality. She’ll leave the Church’s teachings at the door, like a good Republican.

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