Push, my friends, has come to shove.
Usually you can keep things at push, especially if you have enough pull. You can get all sorts of high positions without every word you ever wrote becoming the object of intense scrutiny. There is an old Polish joke dating back to the feudal system. The Jewish serf must pay a monthly percentage on his farm’s output to the Polish baron who has life-or-death power over him. One day he runs into the Rabbi, crying: “Rabbi, I was saying my prayers and my mind drifted and I started doing some calculations in my head and then I realized that I shortchanged the baron… now he might kill me…” The Rabbi calms him: “Don’t worry, the baron won’t catch the mistake. He doesn’t pray!” In the same way, as long as you don’t make waves, no one reads all your little memos that sit in the old files.
But once they nominate you for the Supreme Court, all bets are off. Every document you thought was buried in the archives is disinterred and then deconstructed. Hence our new bombshell, pushing push precipitously toward shove.
Bill Sammon at the Washington Times got the scoop on this current event, so for once it’s swimming upstream. It turns out that Samuel Alito wrote explicitly in a letter applying for a political position that he does not believe that abortion is a right enshrined in the Constitution. Whoever leaked it to Sammon was obviously a pro-Administration guy trying to cushion the blow. His tailored message: Judge Alito has never shown an inclination in his judicial deliberations to import his political philosophy. Fair enough. Fine tactically. But now there is no way around it; he can’t Roe, Roe, Roe his vote gently down the stream. This is war, a bloody war to the finish.
Is this war, one wonders, winnable? Surely you and I cannot know, for one simple reason: it has never been won before. No Republican President has succeeded in introducing a Justice into the Supreme Court who had criticized Roe in any forum whatsoever. What, then, might it take to win a war that has never before been won by anyone?
The answer is clear. A war, any war, can only be won by indefatigable self-effacing teamwork. All for one and one for all. Sadly, the Republican side of the aisle has not been noted for this; they are too quick to vote people off the isle. There is a lot of talk about loyalty but when the going gets tough the tough all too often get going. No one will confess to cowardice; they will find their former friend remiss in some arcane codicil of the manifesto of ideological purity and use that as a fig leaf for abandonment.
All the gung-ho movement types were itching to volunteer for the battlefield. Okay, here it is. They had better be as good as their word. Because there will not be another chance. If Alito ends up twisting in the wind, with conservatives suddenly finding some taint in an obscure ruling of his and leaving his carrion in the open field for the vultures, then it’s over for them. They won’t get another chance. Not now, not ever. Not with this President. Not with any future Republican President.
It’s very nice that everyone thinks of himself or herself as a person of principle. Not a sell-out. Motivated by morality. Informed by reason. Modified by experience. Calibrated by individuality. Guided by the spirit of the past. Animated by the spirit of the present. Inspired by the spirit of the future. We know all the lines, pal, but now is not the time: now it’s time to put up or shut up. To, er… do your business or get off the pot. Push, as we have noted, has in fact come to shove.
A clever Italian comedian performed in Miami recently, and he told how he was doing so well in school as a kid that his grandfather was invited to visit the class to witness his oral exam. “Who was George Washington?” asked the teacher. “Our first President.” “And who was Abraham Lincoln?” “The President who freed the slaves.” Suddenly, the teacher stumped him with this one: “Who shot Lincoln?” The young boy stood there, hanging his head in humiliation, when his grandfather jumped to his feet, thumped his own chest and announced: “That’s my grandson. He don’t rat on nobody.” Let’s see if the conservative politicians and intellectuals can show some of that brand of solidarity.
If not, they may have to be taught a lesson in standing up for your ideas: they can personally go to Alaska and start digging for oil. Putsch will have come to shovel.