Cornyn: Ethics Committee must have a Spartacus moment after yesterday's debacle

Oh, must they? Hasn’t Spartacus gotten enough attention already? John Cornyn’s still seething from Cory Booker’s stunt yesterday of declaring himself a civil-disobedience activist for breaking the rules to release a memo that had, er, already been cleared for release. Rather than take Mitch McConnell’s hands-off approach earlier this morning, Cornyn demanded that the Senate Ethics Committee take up Booker’s challenge and punish him for breaking the rules:

Remind me again what impact an Ethics Committee probe has had on the career of Robert Menendez, who arguably broke laws as well as ethics in his relationship with Medicare fraudster Salomon Melgen. He’s still in the Senate and running for re-election, although he’s not nearly as safe in that race as a Democratic incumbent in New Jersey should be.

Cornyn wants the Ethics Committee to give Booker exactly what he wants — more attention, and an ersatz martyrdom for his 2020 presidential aspirations. Booker wants to pretend that he risked his career to expose a couple of e-mails from Brett Kavanaugh that (a) didn’t really mean much anyway, and (b) had already been cleared for release. That’s why Booker oversold the briar-patch strategy with his “Bring it! Bring it” taunting. The better plan would be to ridicule Booker as “Spartacus” for the next twenty years, as Marco Rubio did this morning. Just to remind everyone:

Ben Sasse took aim at Spartacus this morning as well in an interview this morning with Hugh Hewitt (who spent nearly his whole Friday show covering the Brett Kavanaugh hearings). Rather than poke fun at Booker, whom Sasse says he personally likes, he makes Booker the poster child for everything wrong with the Senate. He called Booker’s display a “scam” and “shameful’:

HH: What did you think of your colleague, Senator Booker’s, display. The Senate Majority Leader in an interview with me yesterday said he went entirely too far.

BS: He went entirely too far. But we, it’s just a picture of so much of the dysfunction of this place, right? They, there are people who are just using these hearings as a backdrop for other stuff like trying to launch 2020 presidential campaigns. So the whole scam there was that somebody was committing civil disobedience and going to try to get arrested and hauled out of there by releasing documents that were already public and that they knew to be public. And oh, by the way, what they actually showed was that Kavanaugh, who didn’t want to reveal his personal views on stuff, because he’s had mostly ministerial functions, but it turns out he’s an opponent of racial profiling. He wasn’t in favor of it. So the whole fake document release was actually something that would have helped Kavanaugh. But it’s all for the theater, so it was shameful.

It seems more potent to just leave it at that, rather than elevate Booker’s publicity stunts with an impotent Ethics review. Besides, Sasse argues that Booker’s not the real villain this week, nor is the nominee, nor the increased partisan nature of the process in and of itself. It’s the cameras, Sasse concludes:

I thought before I got here that the Congress would understand itself to be like a really good board. It doesn’t. It’s a whole bunch of freelance grandstanders who don’t take a long-term vision very often. And people want short-term attention. And so one of the things that doesn’t work in our government is that our legislature doesn’t deliberate. But second thing, there’s a big difference between the way people act around here and the way they deliberate when cameras are off versus on. On national security matters, when we’re in the SCIF in the basement, people, they just don’t peacock and grandstand the same way, and they treat each other with more respect and they listen to arguments. But they don’t do that when they’re on TV all the time.

And that, Sasse says, is why the biggest lesson this week has nothing to do with Kavanaugh. We need to make sure that cameras stay out of the Supreme Court, lest it descend into the same kind of embarrassing insanity seen this week in the Judiciary Committee hearing:

I’m in favor of keeping the hearings for Supreme Court confirmations, to be clear, but I think the idea of taking cameras and putting them into the Supreme Court would be disastrous, because you’d have attorneys constantly grandstanding for cameras. They might be trying to, not trying to lose their case, but not really minding, because their main audience is their book deal or their next, the next TV gig.

It’s beginning to be clear that the best way to deprive politicians and attorneys of incentives for mischief is to limit their TV time. Transparency doesn’t have to mean turning governance into entertainment. Especially when Spartacus remakes are done this badly.

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Jazz Shaw 10:01 PM on June 07, 2023