Forbid Them Not: A Man, a Plan, Stalling a Supreme Court Nominee

Forbid Them Not: A Man, a Plan, Stalling a Supreme Court Nominee December 14, 2018

Forbid Them Not, pp. 398-409

As you may remember, Erzabet Kadar had Supreme Court Justice William R. Campbell poisoned (or smothered, or something) at the end of the last chapter. Because we are, apparently, reading a spy novel. Nobody knows that Campbell was poisoned, because he already had prostate cancer, and he died of a stroke (which … you know what, whatever).

It is September 30th, and the president is going to announce a replacement.

Helene Rodman, the first female president of the United States, stepped forward.

I had forgotten that the evil, liberal president was a woman. I also don’t think we had her first name before. The similarities between Hillary Rodham and Helene Rodman cannot be an accident.

“It is my profound privilege to announce to you this morning,” she began reading from the teleprompter, “that I am nominating Senator Elizabeth Rose for the position of associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Senator Rose has served the people of California with distinction for fourteen years and, as you know, has recently become the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, after serving as the ranking minority member since 2000. She was an outstanding trial lawyer for the National Organization for Women before she was elected to the Senate in 1990.”

Hold up. Is it normal to nominate a Senator to the Supreme Court, rather than a lower court judge? Checks google. Nope. Nope. It hasn’t happened since the 1940s, and that’s a long time. Does Senator Rose get to vote on her own nomination?

Here’s where it gets weird, though—Farris tells his readers that while Helene pretends she was all about nominating Senator Rose, Farris tells us that Helene had wanted to nominate something else, but a “whisper campaign” accusing her of “betrayal of the feminist agenda” forced her hand. The person she’d wanted to nominate was “Congressman Steve Farenholt, who had been the chairman of her presidential campaign.” Both of her potential nominees were members of the U.S. Congress.

Nope. No way. This is not how this works. What does it mean, though? Does Farris not realize this isn’t how this works, or is he trying to make some sort of statement about Democrats, or feminists? (I suspect the latter—but what statement.)

Anyway, of course Senator Rose was a lawyer for NOW. And of course she’s from California. Farris is establishing her as one of the bad guys. Also, feminists.

When the reporters ask Helene whether she’s discussed the U.N. case with Senator Rose, she says something vague about talking with Senator Rose “about the litigation in an informal way before the sudden and sad death of Justice Campbell,” but otherwise sidesteps the question. And for good reason, Farris tells us:

“No, I did not ask or analyze her views on this case or that.”

Her answer was true in a tricky sort of way. The two women had not talked about cases on a hit-or-miss basis as the term “this case or that” would imply. They had had a sheet of every single case pending on the Supreme Court docket, and Rodman had demanded an answer from Rose as to her intended vote on the entire list. They had spent a full twenty minutes just on the UN treaty case.

This is definitely not how it is supposed to go. But Farris, as you have probably gathered, sees liberals as slimy, tricksy creatures who will stop at nothing to get what they want—even murdering Supreme Court justices.

So I want you to consider something in this next bit. Cooper does not know that Justice Campbell was poisoned, and he does not know that Senator Rose was quizzed on how she would vote on every case. He does not have any knowledge of malfeasance or wrongdoing. He knows that those on the other side of the U.N. tried to compromise him with Jody, but he has no reason to think that that trickery went higher than Kadar, on the U.N. Committee.

In other words, from Cooper’s current vantage point, there is nothing about the current Supreme Court vacancy or the appointment of Senator Rose that is out of keeping with the standard process of how the U.S. government is supposed to function. If it is liberals that are slippery and tricksy, and that makes them bad, how do we explain what comes next?

On October 1st, the day after Helene’s announcement, Cooper heads to his old stomping grounds, from his time on the Hill: “the Tuesday morning gathering of Senate staffers” who want “to pray and share a brief time in God’s Word.” He’s been invited there to talk about what Senator Rose’s nomination means for the U.N. case, and he says it’s bad. Very bad.

So bad that they have to come up with a plan. Cooper tells those gathered that the other side has to submit its brief by October 10, at which point he will have thirty days to reply, and then they will have ten days to reply. The problem is that that timeline is too long.

“There is no way we can stall her confirmation that long. Anyone disagree?”

Let’s be crystal clear about what’s going on here—they want to stall Senator Rose’s nomination, not because they can actually stop it longterm (they can’t) or because there is a fundamental problem with her nomination (none has been raised). Why? So that the U.N. case can be heard before she is on the Court.

I’ll grant that this is a different level of trickery from poisoning a Supreme Court justice, but I don’t actually find it that different from quizzing a potential nominee on current cases before the Court before nominating her. In either case, it’s playing political games with the Supreme Court. I’ll also grant that if I were in this situation, subbing the U.N. case for a case on reproductive rights or asylum law, I might well do the exact same thing Cooper is doing.

I’m merely pointing out that Farris has been spending this entire novel drawing a big bold line between liberals, who cheat and lie and connive, and conservatives, who are honest, godly, and upstanding, but I don’t think the picture he has painted is anywhere near that simple. And in the midst of that, Cooper’s stall plan feels a lot more realistic, and like something that would (and does) actually happen, than do the cartoon villain antics pulled by the other side.

(I’ll come back to this later.)

First, they make a plan. Cooper will turn in his reply only five days after he receives it. The other side’s reply brief will then be due on October 29th, and the chief justice can schedule oral arguments immediately, ideally for October 31st or November 1st (I find it somewhat concerning that it appears the chief justice, or someone on his staff, needs to be in on this for it to work).

This whole plan is the brainchild of Scott Gordon, “chief council for the Republican leader of the Senate.” Are there ethics guidelines for this kind of thing? How are they planning to get the chief justice on board? How high does this go?

Speaking of ethics, at one point someone says that it’ll be hard to stall the nomination at all because the Democrats have 60 seats in the Senate, making it impossible for the Republicans to filibuster—but will Senator Rose really get to vote on her own nomination? Would she actually be able to vote to stop a filibuster of her own nomination?

Cooper will be able finish his brief in time because he’ll have help—eight senate staffers, host of whom have clerked for federal judges in the past, including one who clerked for the chief justice, immediately volunteer to help Cooper write his reply. “You’ve got your law firm, Cooper,” one says. “Put them to work.”  Is it realistic that their work schedule would be flexible enough to allow them to do this?

“Hold on a minute,” Bryce Green, one of the eight volunteers, said raising his hand. “Just one problem. Even if we keep Rose from being confirmed, how do we get to five votes on the Court? We’ve got the three remaining conservatives at best.”

“That’s true,” Gordon replied. “Maybe we can get Lorence’s vote. But that’s iffy at best. I don’t know how it adds up. I just have this prompting in my spirit that we are supposed to try to do this. If Rose gets on the Court, it will only get worse .We’ve got to try.”

Everyone is playing politics with this case.

Now the scene changes, and it’s Cooper on Miss Sally’s chat room. I’m not completely sure why he’s on the chat room. I think Farris is using this opportunity to let us know that Sally and the user who goes by “Saddlepal” are now engaged. They’d realized that they lived only a few hours away from each other and had met for dinner early in the summer, remember. They’re now planning a wedding for February 14th.

Abba4JC: They’re our first Crosswalk chat marriage. And unlike so many chatroom romances, they were both single to begin with. We are so proud.

D’awww.

No really, this whole chat room sequence is that boring.

The other users ask Cooper about the case. They rib him a bit about Jody, although it’s unclear how much is ribbing and how much is ongoing confusion.

Firemomma: Is Laura the Sunday school teacher or the UN woman?
Sancty-fried: Ouch, fire…

The use of “UN woman” here is interesting—Jody was always the U.S. ambassador to the UN, not someone employed by or working for the UN. The distinction doesn’t seem to matter, to this lot..

FiddlersPapa: But if Rose is on the Court doesn’t that doom us?
CooperStone: Yes. Probably does That is why I am asking you to pray that her confirmation will be delayed as long as possible.
Firemomma: How long of a delay would you like?
CooperStone: Fire, I think I remember that you have a three-year-old. Right?
Firemomma: Yeah .. .why?
CooperStone: I would like a delay until he is 18.

This is of course in jest—well, sort of.

I’m reminded of the reality that, ten years after this book was published, the Right actually did use this tactic—and not merely to win a specific case but to steal an entire justice. When Scalia died while Obama still had 11 months let in his last term, the Right refused to hold a single hearing on his confirmation of Merrick Garland. For 11 months, we had a Supreme Court with only eight justices. Ten years after this book was published, Republicans stole an entire Supreme Court seat.

Let’s look at this another way.

We aren’t given any reason at all to think that anyone at all knows that Kadar assassinated Justice Campbell. In fact, from the description of the press conference where Helene announced his replacement, Helene, the Democratic president, does not appear to know. I don’t think any of the Democrats know. This was a lone wolf thing carried out by a single actor—I’m reminded of the DCFS supervisor in the other book who blew up the DCFS computer drives. It’s not systemic.

What are the sketchy things everyone is in on?

On the Democratic side, Helene quizzed Senator Rose on every case coming before the Supreme Court before agreeing to nominate her. You’re not supposed to to that. It also makes no sense, though—Senator Rose is presented as an ideologue whose background is presented as a guarantee that she will be a reliable liberal vote on the Supreme Court—and Helene is picking her not for her decisions (Helene actually didn’t want to pick Senator Rose, and refused to shake her hand when they left the stage), but because her feminist supporters pressured her to.

On the Republican side, they’re going to stall what they otherwise believe is a perfectly legitimate and legal nomination, not because they think they can push for a justice more in line with their views but rather because they want to win this one single case. And none of this is presented as untoward or underhanded in any way.

When Farris writes his bad guys, they’re one-dimensional and opaque. Why didn’t Helene want to nominate Senator Rose? We don’t even know. Why does Kadar care about this so very much? Doesn’t she have other countries to focus on?

When Farris writes good guys, he seems to think he’s creating characters who are transparently godly and upstanding, but he ends up creating characters that feel quite a bit less than that. Characters that lie, and scheme, and hide things.

CooperStone: I need to go. Thanks for praying and sending e-mails to the Senate.

We’ll have to wait for next week to see how this plan works out.

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