Voting to confirm an attorney general who won’t uphold the Constitution isn’t a way to inspire confidence among conservatives.
Hillary Clinton didn’t have such a bad week after all. Sure, she’s reeling from the latest unseemly revelations about the Clinton Foundation family piggy bank. But they’re only marginally worse than earlier unseemly revelations about the Clinton Foundation.
They are roughly on par with the revelations about how Mrs. Clinton obstructed Congress’s Benghazi investigations by purging her unlawful private e-mail system, which was worse than her obstruction of the State Department’s Benghazi investigation. Yet it may not have been as bad as the obstruction of justice that was a staple of her husband’s administration. Those obstructions, in turn, were on par with her husband’s selling of a pardon to a fugitive fraudster on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List . . . which itself was not quite as bad as his awarding pardons to FALN terrorists — to ingratiate Hillary! with the New York Puerto Rican community (or at least the radicals therein) in preparation for her Senate campaign.
We could go on corruptio ad absurdum. But you get the point: Reeling is not so bad. Reeling is what Clintons do. The way they operate, it’s what they have to do. They should change the Clinton Foundation’s name to Reel Clear Politics.
But what difference, at this point, does it make? Not much. See, it wasn’t that bad a week for Hillary because, even with all the reeling, there is a very good chance she will be the next president of the United States.
If that happens, we may remember this as the week that put her over the top. Or better, the week Republicans put her over the top, right after they got done putting Loretta Lynch over the top.
On Thursday morning, top Republican strategist Karl Rove proclaimed, “The dysfunctional Congress finally appears to be working again as the Founders intended.” Just hours later, the GOP-controlled Senate confirmed as attorney general — i.e., as the chief federal law-enforcement officer of the United States — a lawyer who quite openly supports the systematic non-enforcement of federal law. In fact, Ms. Lynch also supports President Obama’s blatantly unconstitutional usurpations of legislative authority, including most notoriously, of Congress’s power to set the terms of lawful presence by aliens in our country.
Now, I happen to like Karl Rove — if you’re looking for the Rove piñata at the end of the Tea Party, you will not find it in my columns. But can someone as smart as he is really think Congress under Republican control is working as the Founders intended? The Founders intended Congress to rein in a president who behaved like a monarch. Anyone who has read the 1787 constitutional-convention debates knows they would have impeached and removed a president for a bare fraction of the malfeasance carried out by President Obama.
The Founders, moreover, thought oaths of office were serious business — having pledged their own lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to the cause of liberty against great odds and a great power that would have put them to death had the revolution failed. They therefore required (in Article II, Section 1) that the president take an oath to execute the laws faithfully, and to preserve, protect, and defend a Constitution that Mr. Obama takes less seriously than his NCAA brackets. Beyond that, the Founders mandated (in Article VI) that oaths to support the Constitution also be taken by senators and executive-branch officers, among others.
So, in what we’re now to believe is a functional Congress, Loretta Lynch, the president’s nominee for attorney general, testified without compunction that she endorses and intends to facilitate the president’s lawlessness and constitutional violations. With that knowledge, senators then had to consider her nomination.
If oaths mean anything, she should never even have gotten a vote. To repeat, the position of attorney general exists to ensure that the laws are enforced and the Constitution preserved; plus, each senator has taken an oath to uphold the Constitution. So this was not a hard call.
Yet, Republicans were up to their now familiar shenanigans.
In October, while courting conservative support for the upcoming midterm election, Senator Mitch McConnell declaimed that any nominee to replace Eric Holder as “the nation’s highest law-enforcement official” must, “as a condition of his or her confirmation,” avoid “at all costs” Holder’s penchant for putting “political and ideological commitments ahead of the rule of law” — including as it “relates to the president’s acting unilaterally on immigration or anything else.”
Turns out he was kidding.
Once the November election was safely won (including his own — McConnell won’t face the voters again for six years), the majority leader swung into action, laboring behind the scenes to drum up support for Lynch. He not only whipped for Lynch from the shadows; by voting for her confirmation, he mocked any conservatives who’d been naïve enough to take his campaign rhetoric seriously.
In this he joined nine others on the roster of Republican senators who took an oath to uphold the Constitution then supported an attorney general who had vowed to undermine the Constitution: Orrin Hatch (Utah), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Susan Collins (Maine), Rob Portman (Ohio), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Thad Cochran (Miss.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), and Ron Johnson (Wis.).
That doesn’t begin to quantify the perfidy, though. In order to get Lynch to the finish line, McConnell first had to break conservative opposition to allowing a final vote for her nomination. The majority leader thus twisted enough arms that 20 Republicans voted to end debate. This guaranteed that Lynch would not only get a final vote but would, in the end, prevail — Senators Hatch, Graham, Flake, Collins, and Kirk having already announced their intention to join all 46 Democrats in getting Lynch to the magic confirmation number of 51.
So, in addition to the aforementioned ten Republicans who said “aye” on the final vote to make Lynch attorney general, there are ten others who conspired in the GOP’s now routine parliamentary deception: Vote in favor of ending debate, knowing that this will give Democrats ultimate victory, but cast a meaningless vote against the Democrats in the final tally in order to pose as staunch Obama opponents when schmoozing the saps back home. These ten — John Thune (S.D.), John Cornyn (Texas), Bob Corker (Tenn.), Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Pat Roberts (Kan.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Cory Gardner (Col.), Mike Rounds (S.D.), and Thom Tillis (N.C.) — are just as willfully complicit in Lynch’s confirmation and her imminent execution of Obama’s lawlessness.
This is not a Senate back to regular order. It is a disgrace, one that leads to the farce’s final act: On Monday, Loretta Lynch will ceremoniously take the oath to uphold the Constitution she has already told us she will undermine. This is not about immigration, amnesty, health care, and the full spectrum of tough issues on which reasonable minds can differ. It is about the collapse of fundamental assumptions on which the rule of law rests. When solemn oaths are empty words, when missions such as “law enforcement” become self-parody, public contempt for Washington intensifies — in particular, on the political right, which wants to preserve the good society and constitutional order the rule of law sustains.
In 2012, Barack Obama was reelected despite hemorrhaging support. Obama drew three-and-a-half million fewer votes than he had in 2008. He is president today because, despite deep dissatisfaction with his tenure, millions of former Republican supporters were too vexed by the party’s insipidness to believe voting would make a difference. They stayed home.
The GOP, it seems, is going to great lengths to convince them that they were right. It may be that, for an entrenched Beltway political class, the important thing is to stay entrenched: better to play ball with the “opposition” party than to represent a base that wants Washington — the political class’s source of power — pared way back.
Accomplished as she is in self-dealing sleight-of-hand, Mrs. Clinton clearly has not cornered the Washington market. To win the White House, she does not need to be popular. She just needs to be a tad more popular with the Left than the GOP is with the Right. Eminently doable.
First published on National Review online and reposted with author’s permission.
— Andrew C. McCarthy is a policy fellow at the National Review Institute. His latest book is Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment.