A Supreme Court donnybrook and an unlikely buddy story

So not one of the 11 GOP senators on the Judiciary Committee is “man” enough to question Professor Christine Blasey Ford, who has alleged that federal Judge Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her some 36 years ago. As of this writing, Senators Charles Grassley, Lindsay Graham, Orrin Hatch, John Cornyn and their committee cronies plan to bring an “outside female prosecutor” to interrogate Ford about her allegations.
These 11 angry “men” cravenly plan to hide behind the well-tailored skirt of hired-gun prosecutor Rachel Mitchell to avoid having to face the “little woman” facing them at a committee hearing. Anything to avoid a replay, or worse, of the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill debacle in 1991. Way to man up, Senators! You lost your big-boy pants somewhere between the Capitol and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
While most of the Democratic senators have hardly proven profiles in courage as Mitch McConnell, like it or not, is playing a hardball numbers game that they decry but have been powerless to stop, the spectacle of President Trump labeling the Dems as “really con artists” is priceless. In this instance, the saying that “people who live in glass house [or White Houses?] shouldn’t throw stones “ is more than apt. Perhaps the president doesn’t remember a venture called Trump University.
Political prognostications are on treacherous turf, but I suspect that if Maine Senator Susan Collins votes to send Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme bench, she will be broomed out of office in her re-election effort. For her entire career on Capitol Hill, she has been a staunch supporter of women’s rights, from choice to healthcare. Last year, she courageously stood up to Trump and her party to join with John McCain and Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski to prevent throwing millions of Americans out of the healthcare system. Now, under immense pressure to rush through a judicial nominee with a long record against choice and contraception and with allegations of sexual assault—unproven at this juncture but uninvestigated, courtesy of the Trump and Grassley—Collins risks alienating the very voters whose right to choice and healthcare she has guarded for years.
As I file this piece, a third allegation of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh is breaking. There are any number of qualified conservative judges who would sail through the Republican-controlled Senate. Interestingly, Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch, who attended the same elite prep school as Kavanaugh, had not a whiff of the taint surrounding his fellow alum. Why is the president so hell bent in getting Kavanaugh through? Could it be that Kavanaugh has written and said that a sitting president should not have to answer a subpoena?
A Buddy Story and Feud
Terry Golway has belted it out of the biographical park again with his latest offering, “Frank and Al: FDR, Al Smith, and the Unlikely Alliance That Created the Modern Democratic Party.” Golway’s splendid “Irish Rebel: John Devoy and America’s Fight for Ireland’s Freedom” set a high bar, and with “Frank and Al,” Golway, a gifted historian, senior Politico editor, and former member of The New York Times editorial board, has met or even exceeded that bar.
The book’s title sounds like a buddy movie, and in many ways it is exactly that. FDR and Al Smith hailed from two vastly different worlds in New York state. Roosevelt came from the rarefied old-line Protestant world of money, the right schools, and the right connections. Such comfort and affluence were alien to Irish-American Catholic Al Smith, who grew up on the mean immigrant streets of New York’s Lower East Side. On the surface, both men appeared polar opposites.
Despite that, politics thrust them into a political partnership that defied social and cultural convention while spawning the modern Democratic Party and the New Deal.
As both men clawed and climbed their way up the political ladder of the party in the opening decades of the 20th century, Smith stood, as the book notes, with one part of the Democratic “urban machine―representing Catholics and Jews, ironworkers and seamstresses, from the tenements of the Northeast and Midwest.” Roosevelt, conversely, aligned himself with the party’s “populists and patricians, rooted in the soil and the Scriptures, enforcers of cultural, political, and religious norms.”
Smith, a product of the Tammany Hall machine, seemed the unlikeliest pol to forge an alliance with Roosevelt, but Smith’s Progressive policies as New York’s governor in the Roaring ‘20s caught the attention of FDR, the party’s other rising star. When Roosevelt balked at the prospect of running for the same post, Smith proved instrumental in persuading Roosevelt to do so.
In 1928, Smith won the Democratic nomination for president. He lost to Herbert Hoover in arguably the most religiously and ethnically charged elections in America’s annals, pilloried for his Irish Catholicism by “real Americans.” Despite the defeat, Smith remained a force in the party.
As the 1932 presidential election loomed, the Great Depression dominated everything. By now friends as well as political allies, Smith and Roosevelt faced off against each other for the Democratic nomination and set off onde of the nation’s greatest political in their bare-knuckled brawl for the post. Roosevelt came out in top, and the rest, as the adage goes, is history.
Terry Golway has crafted a meticulously researched, fast-flowing examination of two political giants. For the scholar and history buff alike, “Frank and Al” delivers all the literary and historical goods. Golway presents a crucial piece of Irish-American and American history in this outstanding work, which belongs on everyone’s reading list.
(Frank and Al: FDR, Al Smith, and the Unlikely Alliance that Created the Modern Democratic Party, Terry Golway. St. Martin’s, $29.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-08964-9)