This past week bore witness to some significantly outrageous claims by two very public and private figures. From a burgeoning battle between a legendary journalist and the White House to an outright dismissal of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by an Italian-American Supreme Court Justice coupled with what’s been recently heard from the new John McCain, are we simply observing a reflection of a divide America or is it a dire outbreak of senility?
Twitter was sent ablaze late Thursday with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s claim that the Voting Right’s Act renewal was nothing short of a “perpetuation of racial entitlement”. The claim came out of oral arguments surrounding the law’s requirement that certain states submit changes to voting laws to the federal government for approval. The measure is meant to ensure there are no infringement of voter’s rights.
Justice Scalia asserted, since the law was last renewed in 2006 with no opposition in the Senate, it was clear lawmakers were more concerned with being labeled a racist rather than subject the renewal to substantive debate. In so doing, this created a “racial entitlement”. Now, suspending disbelief for a moment and assume Scalia’s logic has merit, he interestingly omits the 33 representatives in the House who voted in opposition the last time around. This on its own should dispel Scalia’s conclusions.
Of course there is an alternate plane of logic one could take to explain why this law is continually renewed. Brace yourselves, dear readers… Could it be the law was deemed still necessary and those 98 senators and 390 House members were in rare agreement? For many there is still question surrounding the law’s potential obsolesces. Setting aside the 200 voting violations in Alabama alone between reauthorizations, the influx of new state-level, restrictive voting laws and subsequent court rulings against many of them, it is clear Section 5 is still relevant.
For Justice Scalia, and the other conservative judges, to assert oversight is obsolete is a simple denial of the real world situation. A particular curiosity crops up as well. Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries Italian immigrates in the United States were viewed as second class citizens. Scalia was, in fact, born to 1st and 2nd generation Italian immigrant parents. Is it not interesting a descendent of that demographic group, who sits upon the Supreme Court of the United States, now takes a stance which may directly limit minority opportunities?
Scalia’s increasingly controversial and shocking comments both from the bench and off may speak less to a decline into senility than it does to a perceived public acceptance of such extreme views within the current politically divisive environment. Scalia apears more comfortable expressing himself as he has of late, with such instances as the “Cornhusker Kickback” remark during the health care reform case, his assertion that on the most controversial issues he doesn’t “even have to read the briefs, for Pete’s sake” (indicating a lack of impartiality), and equating gay marriage to murder. The fact that he is the longest serving justice on the bench he may feel he can say whatever he pleases since there are few, if any, consequences for his actions. That is unless a decline in the Court’s credibility counts as a consequence of importance. There are no real laws against judicial activism and biased opinion on the Supreme Count, despite the impact this may have on the country as a whole.
Bob Woodward is a different story. Beginning with a hard hitting, and technically accurate, February 22nd column placing the idea of the sequester on the Obama administration’s front step and ending the week with an appearance on Sean Hannity’s show, Mr Woodward injected himself squarely into the sequester blame game. It was, however, what occurred between these two events which sent the iconic journalist on a credibility roller coaster. After numerous interviews pressing his “Obama owns the sequester” and “goal post moving” points, Mr. Woodward spoke with CNN’s Wolfe Blitzer and revealed a shocking accusation. According to him, 4 days prior through email correspondence a “very senior” White House official threatened him by stating he would, “regret doing this”. A day later the full email texts were released by Politico and revealed a wholly benign conversation between, what could be construed as, two close colleagues.
Woodward was caught in what could easily be interpreted as a purposeful misrepresentation of the facts, or what’s more commonly known as a “lie”, something he had been accusing the Obama administration of for the past week. What would make a well respected journalist do such a thing, so openly? Looking back at the events, it seemed as though Woodward was not so much on a pursuit of journalistic truth than he was on a personal vendetta against the President. Add to this his Thursday evening appearance on Fox’s Hannity show where he expressed agreement with the very conservative host that journalists should begin investigating the, widely dismissed, Bill Ayers-Obama connection once again.
As witnessed from the once self-described “maverick of the Senate”, famous for level-headed bipartisanship, John McCain began a slow ride down the off-ramp to crazy town with his vice-presidential choice in 2008. He then peaked during a 2010 Tea Party indulged reelection and has since culminated thus far with an intense fixation on his Benghazi coverup conspiracy.
Unfortunately, Bob Woodward’s behavior this past week makes one wonder if he is following McCain’s lead. In the span of one week, the once heralded newsman has gone from making a fact-based counter to the President’s sequester message to accusing the administration of threatening him to being called out for lying about said accusations to denying he even said he was threatened, to agreeing with a severely conservative, Fox News commentary show host about the future direction of investigative journalism. Woodward’s appearances on the network have changed as well. From the roughly 11 over the 8 years of the Bush presidency to 10 this past year and 4 appearances already this new year. Is this a conscious shift to the conservative cable news channel? Is there any real significance in the number of appearances? Unsure. Some speculate Mr. Woodward is simply out expanding the potential audience for his latest book.
Whatever the reasons are, be it heightened comfort with one’s expression of extreme views brought on by the hyperpartisan times we live in or actually a downward slide into senility there is a decidedly obvious change in the manner our leading individuals conduct themselves. It’s shocking for some, cheer invoking for others but in the end it comes at the cost of professionalism that in the past brought compromise and progress. It brought solutions. Hard fought solutions, yes, but solutions nonetheless.