Opinion: The U.S. Senate is full of clowns

by Peter Heck · Oct 26th, 2020 2:00 pm

Last Updated Oct 29th, 2020 at 5:22 am

It's distinctly possible if not probable that I've romanticized it. The United States Senate – "the world's greatest deliberative body" – has probably always been a refuge for scoundrels, hacks, and clowns, far more than it has been home to statesmen like Frank Capra's fictional Jefferson Smith.

Just a few weeks ago I was teaching my high school seniors from James Madison's notes from the Constitutional Convention of 1787 where he likened the Senate to a "necessary fence" that would work to guard and protect "the people against their rulers." Not only that, the architect of the Constitution said that it would be the critical role of the Senate, given their prestigious rank, that would shield the country from "the transient impressions into which they themselves might be led."

I'm not kidding when I say that it was almost more than I could handle, trying to bear through that lesson and those lofty descriptions of a body that now boasts characters like Chuck Schumer and Mazie Hirono.

While the presidency obviously gets the most attention given that it is centered around one figure rather than 100, there's no American alive who doesn't recognize that the White House has been home to some most undeserving individuals. Once Andrew Jackson moved into the residence after all, any delusion that it was an office to be held by men above reproach, was thoroughly bludgeoned with a cold dose of reality.

But the Senate has continued to get a pass, with large swaths of Americans giving to the upper house of Congress an absolution they deny to the lower house, and the executive branch, with prejudice.

My only question is why? This past week has once again provided all the reason a rational mind should need to determine that the Senate is badly broken, and in desperate need of a purge. Its members are largely corrupt, attached to the wishes of powerful and wealthy lobbyists rather than the best interest of their states, and far too many are painfully detached from even the slightest vestige of principle.

Take this transparent display of buffoonery as but one example: unable to find legal or professional grounds to critique Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii went with this angle:

Now, to be sure, Hirono wasn't the only Senator to take this God-forsaken path of skulduggery. But it was Hirono who then subsequently clowned her way through this exchange with National Review:

National Review: Senator, last week at the hearing you mentioned that you thought it was "offensive and outdated" when Amy Barrett used the [term] "sexual preference." It turns out that Joe Biden said it in May. Ruth Bader Ginsburg said it in 2017. Some of your colleagues on the Judiciary Committee said it maybe in 2010, 2012. Do you stand by that criticism?

Mazie Hirono: Well, of course.

NR: Do you think Joe Biden should apologize for saying that in May?

Hirono: Well, look, it's a lesson learned for all of us. But when you're going on the Supreme Court and you've been a judge, as one of my judge friends said, you should know what these words mean.

NR: Should Joe Biden apologize, too, like Amy Coney Barrett did?

Hirono: Joe Biden is not up for the Supreme Court.

NR: He's up for the presidency. So, he shouldn't apologize?

Hirono: People will decide.

NR: You don't want to call on him to apologize?

Hirono: Oh, stop it. The world is in flames.

The National Review reporter who engaged Hirono was John McCormack, who pithily noted that while Biden and Barrett don't likely owe anyone an apology, Hirono and her fellow Senatorial collaborators certainly do.

The world is "in flames," as Hirono states, at least in part due to its leaders utilizing their positions of power for self-aggrandizement and posturing. And there are few places an observant person will find that taking place these days as regularly as in the United States Senate.

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