There’s nothing like coming home late from the airport, exhausted from a day of travel after a grueling out-of-state recording session with friends, and finding a three foot tall stuffed rat dressed like a rabbit laying on the ground in front of your house. I don’t know if I would have been so freaked out, had I not been hung over, and had my kids not been screaming about the possibility that it might have been left by an evil clown, but I was totally terrified as we pulled up and saw it there, illuminated by our headlights, it’s beady little eyes staring at us. I knew it wasn’t likely, but I couldn’t help but think it was possible that a little person might be inside it, just waiting for me to get close enough before leaping up like a Chucky doll and chasing me through the neighborhood. So, like a coward, I got out of the car, found a long stick, and poked at it a few times before finally grabbing it by the ear and dragging it away from the kids, who, by this point, were standing close by, screaming that I should call the police… Now that I know we’re not in any danger, though, I’m wondering if I might be able to convince Arlo to get inside of it, and just lay still on the lawn of my neighbors until they come out to investigate.
This past weekend marked the 22nd meeting of my one-day-a-year pseudo-band, the Monkey Power Trio. For those of you who might not be familiar with our origin story, it all began back in 1995 with a promise between old friends one hot, summer afternoon in Brooklyn. On the spur of the moment, we’d decided to make a record. We gathered whatever instruments we could find, and we made our way into an unlocked basement storage room in a Carrol Gardens apartment building [131 Union Street], where we proceeded to scream and beat on things while an old cassette recorder whirred away, suspended in front of us from a string tied to a sewage pipe. The result was a 7″ record, which we decided to call The First Hour, acknowledging the fact that we’d agreed, shortly after finishing, to meet up and do the same exact thing every year until the point when only one of us was left alive. And, surprisingly, we’ve stayed true to our word for 22 years now, despite the fact that, every year, it becomes exponentially more difficult for the five of us to both get away from our real-world obligations and express ourselves creatively… This year, our destination was Cumming, Georgia, about an hour’s drive north of Atlanta.
I know what you’re thinking… Given how terrible things went the last time we met up in the remote suburbs of Atlanta, why would we do it again, instead of going somewhere exotic and interesting, like Lake Tahoe , or Jackson Hole, or even Cleveland? Well, we decided to go back to Georgia because Mike, the southern member of our band, had just gotten married there, and we wanted to attend a small wedding celebration that he and his new wife Kellie had planned for their friends who hadn’t attended the ceremony earlier this summer. As usual, it was going to be a quick in and out. The idea was to fly in late Wednesday night after work, create a recording studio out of unpacked moving boxes in the basement of Mike and Kellie’s new house on Thursday while drinking bourbon and talking about the various issues that we’re all facing, scream like morons all day Friday while beating on poorly tuned instruments, attend the wedding party on Saturday, and then fly our asses back home. And that’s pretty much happened.
[We give ourselves 24 consecutive hours each year in which to write, record and mix down a record’s worth of songs, but most of that time is spent eating, sleeping, fighting, laughing at one another, and trying to figure out how to adjust instruments so that everyone can be heard. This probably leaves us with about 8 hours to actually come up with songs and record them. And, by the way, we ask that reviewers please keep that in mind before weighing on our creative output.]
The session itself was relatively uneventful. I think, by the time it was all over, we’d written and recorded 10 songs, about four of which are relatively interesting, including one called “Lady Baby,” and another called “Why Did That Bird Die? / I’ve Never Done Cocaine.” At the rate we’re going releasing records, I suspect you’ll be able to hear both in about three years. [The last record we put out, a 12” titled Left Behind, contained our songs from 2011 to 2013.]
Here we are before heading off to celebrate Mike and Kellie’s wedding. From left to right, that’s Matt, me, Dan, Dave and Mike.
Following, in no particular order, are a few things that stood to me out about this, our 22nd session.
MAKING AN IMPRESSION…. Mike’s new wife, Kellie, was sweet, generous and kind. I know it couldn’t have been easy for her, having the four of us moving into the house with them, just days after they’d purchased it, but she seemed to be a good sport about it. And I’d like to think, by the end of it, we’d managed to make a pretty good impression, despite the fact that we sometimes revert to being kids when we’re around one another, telling jokes at each other’s expense, taunting one another, and doing the kinds of things that men do when they’ve known one another since childhood. At any rate, I’d like to think that, in spite of that, we left her with a sense of just of how deeply we all genuinely care about one another. [I won’t elaborate on the context, but I want to note here that our stay ended with Kellie hugging me and saying, “You actually do have a personality,” as I’d like to revisit it as a potential song idea next year.]
ON NOT MAKING THE EFFORT TO SEE FOXY… Mike kept telling us about a skinny little dude who dressed like Richard Simmons and sat on an old lawn chair down the road from where he and Kellie lived, just waving at passing cars all day. He must have mentioned him twenty times over the course of the weekend, usually after downing a Red Bull and vodka, asking us repeatedly if we wanted to go and look for him. We were united in our opposition to this idea. On the last day, though, Kellie added something to the story that made me regret my decision not to take Mike up on his offer. “According to the sign in his yard, he’s a psychic,” she said… And now I just wonder how much more incredible the session might have been, had we made the time to get a group psychic reading before firing up our amps on Saturday. [note: Find a psychic next year, wherever we end up going.]
[above: Our basement setup. You can’t see the area that we build for Matt and his wind instruments out of boxes, drapes and rugs.]
TRAPPED IN THE EXURBS… Mike and Kellie’s new house, where we stayed, is about 60 miles northwest of Atlanta, in an exurb community called something like Pelican Cove. With the exception of a trip to a terrible roadside barbecue spot, where they apparently boil their pork and pre-chew it for their customers, and the restaurant where the wedding party was held on Saturday, which was really good, it’s where we spent every minute of our time in Georgia. And I hope I don’t hurt either Mike or Kellie’s feelings when I say this, but, having now spent a few days living in their remote exurb community, I can say with some certainty that I would sooner chew off my own arms than live that kind of isolated life, completely disconnected from society. I mean, I can see how some people would like the solitude, but I think it would drive me out of my mind. [We were so far out, there wasn’t even a Chick-fil-A within a 30-mile radius. If you’re familiar with Atlanta, you know how insane that is.]
In the three days we were at their house, which was really beautiful, by the way, I believe we only saw two other adults. We saw one heavily made-up woman power walking in a silk jogging suit. And we saw an extremely douchey looking man in a golf cart, barreling down a nature trail. With those two exceptions, we did not see a single person in their community of dozens and dozens of enormous faux mansions. Everyone in the neighborhood, by the way, owns a golf cart, according to Mike, which struck me as odd, given that there isn’t a golf course. He says that’s how people and their kids get around the neighborhood when they have to leave their homes, like to walk a dog, or get their mail from their mailboxes.
Here we are on Mike’s golf cart, cruising around the neighborhood, searching unsuccessfully for signs of exurban life.
The whole place just struck me as incredibly surreal… all of these huge, asymmetrical homes with two-story entryways, superfluous columns, and gigantic rooflines intended to convey wealth and social standing, with absolutely no life outside of them, like isolated little make-believe castles behind tiny fences intended to project the illusion of security. [Mike and Kellie’s house, by the way, isn’t one of the houses I’m referencing here. Their house is really quite beautiful.] I mean, I can kind of see the appeal of getting away from everything, and I don’t fault Mike and Kellie at all for living there at all, as they got a good deal on the place, and it’s near to where both of them work, but, as someone who values things like sidewalks, human contact, and just being able to walk to things, it struck me as the kind of place that would leave me feeling incredibly hollow. And I think that feeling kind of permeated this session, where one of the songs I’d write was about an armed revolt against wealthy landowners who had displaced those that had existed in that space before them. Mike’s home, I should probably have mentioned earlier, is right next to the Cherokee Trail of Tears, which kind of made things even a bit more surreal.
A scene from the barbecue joint I mentioned earlier, which I’d wanted desperately to love, as it reminded me of other great places I’d been to in the past.
THE POLITICS OF NORTH GEORGIA… It didn’t help the general feeling of unease that we were smack dab in the middle of Trump country, in a county where racism still seems to be quite prevalent. So, as you might imagine, the specter of Trump hung heavy over everything. Against our better judgment, we tried to engage some of the local folks about the presidential campaign on the few occasions that we left the house. Of the people I personally engaged with, all but one was a strong Trump supporter. The one who wasn’t was a bartender at the restaurant where we had the wedding party. Before talking to Dave and me, she literally looked around her to make sure that no one could hear her say that she’d be voting for Hillary. She was a single mother of two, and said that she couldn’t imagine voting for Trump. Everyone else who we talked with, however, was vehemently anti-Clinton. The word “crooked” came up several times, which I thought was kind of chilling. [It’s amazing the power that Trump has over people, repeating the same buzzwords over and over again until they become a part of our collective unconscious.] People would invariably mention the corruption of the Clinton Foundation, the email scandal, the ‘fact’ that, had anyone else done the things that she had, that they’d be in jail. And we’d try, to the best of our ability, to respond with facts. I’d like to think we were polite about it. We’d go over the go into the details of Hillary’s email, and recite facts about the finances of the Clinton Foundation [being sure to mention both that Bush used a private email server as President and Trump’s charity is currently under investigation], but it didn’t seem to have much of an impact. And, for what it’s worth, it also didn’t really help to discuss the character of our aspiring Pussy Grabber in Chief. When we mentioned specifics, we’d invariably hear back, “Well, they’re both terrible, but she’s dangerous” or something to that effect. So we weren’t able to change any minds.
It’ll never make a record, as it’s not a very good song, but, like every other band in the word, we felt obliged to take a crack at writing a song that would contribute in some way toward the complete electoral blowout we’re all hoping is in Trump’s future. We failed at it, and we’ll never release the whole thing, but here, in case you’re interested, is a short clip.
OTHER INFLUENCES… As there’s presently no bathroom in the basement of the house where we were recording, Mike, not wanting to either walk into the woods behind the house, or go upstairs, would just piss out of an open window. And, at one point, he noticed a small bird that had apparently died as a result of smashing into the side of the house. He brought the bird back with him, and it, like Trump before it, became fodder for our creative process. Another influence this time, at least for me, was radio personality Phil Hendrie, who, as you may know, employs a number of voices to manipulate members of his audience into thinking that they’re listening in on legitimate interviews, when, in fact, they’re really more like improved one-man radio plays. Having listened to an old ‘interview’ between Hendrie and an overzealous community watch organizer on the way to this year’s session, I couldn’t get the idea out of my mind that somewhere in the United States there must be people going through the trash of their neighbors, looking for clues as to where their loyalties lie. While this idea did come up during our session, it also manifested itself in a sign that we put on Mike’s golf cart, letting his new neighbors know that he’ll be watching them, taking notes on their activities, etc. [“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear,” it said.] Here’s a photo.
NEW TWISTS… A few years ago, we introduced something new into our creative process. At some point during the session, if there’s a creative dry spell, we take a break for meditation and reflection. We all just walk outside in different directions, to sit quietly with a notebook until we come back with a song idea to flesh out with the rest of the group. It’s worked well for us. And, in that spirit, I started something new this year, a kind of icebreaker, just to get things started. I call it the “time capsule,” and it’s a pretty simple concept. As everyone tunes their instruments and gets ready, I just state briefly where we are, what I’ve been up to the last year, and then encourage others to do the same. The best part is something I’m calling “the litany of ailments,” where each of us, who are all approaching 50, discuss our health concerns, medical scares, recent procedures, etc. I think our kids will appreciate it one day, having the ability to listen to us break down and fall apart over time.
QUEEN LATIFAH… While the rest of us flew coach to and from Atlanta, Matt flew first class, and it yielded the best travel story of the session. As Dave and I sat in the terminal, waiting for our flights home, which wouldn’t leave for at least another five hours, we got a text from Matt, who was already on his plane, getting ready to leave for New York. It said “Queen Latifah is seated in the row ahead of me.” When we asked how he knew it was the rapper turned actress, he said that he’d found her photo online and made a positive identification from the tattoo of two blue butterflies behind her right ear. He added that he’d actually admired it before he knew who she was. [He also said he’d been tipped off to her identity by people boarding the flight and saying “Hey, Queen Latifah.”] We, of course, asked him to talk to her, and see if she might record a backing track for us sometime, but he’d stopped responding to us by that point as he and Queen Latifah had taken off… For what it’s worth, while we’re on the subject of being recognized, when we first landed in Atlanta and met up at the airport, a young woman eating at TGI Friday’s, having seen us with our instruments, asked us who we were. She said, “I know you’re famous. I recognize you. I just can’t remember the name of the group.” I was tempted to play along and say, “Yeah, we’re the Barenaked Ladies,” which I know is what she was thinking, but I told her the truth and walked away sadly into the night.
This, by the way, is Matt. This was taken at the steakhouse where we met up to celebrate Mike and Kellie’s wedding.
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT… The thing I really enjoy most about these brief weekend sessions of ours, is the time we just spend talking. While it’s cathartic to scream, make noise, and work collaboratively on a project, the real interesting part for me is just having the time to talk about the kinds of adult issues that we, as men, rarely discuss in our day-to-day life. For instance, we had a whole, long conversation this year about who, among the parents of our childhood friends, modeled healthy, loving relationships. That’s not something that I would have imagined us having talked about twenty years ago, or even five. It’s just good to sit down for hours on end with a bunch of guys you’ve know for years and talk about things in depth, like what it really means to be successful, parenting challenges we’re currently facing, and, of course, the looming prospect of death. It’s huge stuff, and I’m eternally grateful that I’ve got these guys to go through life with, even if we just see one another the one weekend a year. Everyone should be so lucky.
One more thing, as long as we’re on the subject… I was also struck this year by the fact that my life could have been incredibly different had I just been either a few months younger, or a few months older. With the exception of Dave, all the rest of us were classmates in high school, and I don’t think it’s a huge stretch to say that, had I been in the class of either ‘85 or ‘87, instead the class of ‘86, I’d likely not be where I am today. This band certainly wouldn’t exist. And I don’t even know that I’d have the family I have today, as I met Linette at a show that Matt, Dan and I played in Ypsilanti in ‘91, after they’d moved up to Michigan to form the band with me that would eventually evolve into Prehensile Monkeytailed Skink. It’s just weird how connected we all are in this life, and how much our actions impact one another.
[above: Dave in the act of pointing to something on Dan’s phone.]
GOING FORWARD… We are going to be celebrating our 25th day/year as a band in three years, and I’d like to start planning for it. Over this past weekend, I came up with two ideas, both of which involve collaboration. First, I was thinking that it would be cool if we could put out a CD with some bands that we like covering our songs. [Jim Cherewick already did a great job with our song Portland is Doomed. ] The other is an appeal to animators and filmmakers, asking that they consider incorporating our music in some way. Whereas the first collaborative initiative would yield a CD, I’m not sure what the end point would be for this second effort. Maybe there would be a screening somewhere, like on the side of a building in Brooklyn, near the spot where, back in ‘95, we recorded The First Hour. We’re open to other ideas, though. We just feel like we should mark the occasion in some special way… And how better, I’m thinking, than to cast the net wider and get more people involved somehow. Maybe we could live stream some portion of our session, taking song ideas from listeners, or, better yet, letting them sing along. Or, maybe we include our families, and officially start getting them ready for that day when they’re going to have to take over for us? Or, perhaps I could find a museum somewhere that would allow us to do our thing in a gallery, behind a curtain or something. I don’t know. It’s fun, however, thinking about the possibilities.
[above: Mike and Dave enjoying a break from riding in the golf cart.]
I just woke up to find that Tom Hayden passed away last night. Here, for those of you who may have missed it the first time around, is our discussion from 2012, which, sadly, I’ve yet to finish my transcription of. You can still listen to it, though.
Earlier this evening, I had the occasion to speak with activist and author Tom Hayden about his role in the drafting of the Port Huron Statement, the circumstances which gave rise to this widely influential manifesto of the New Left, and his evolution from student journalist to impassioned activist. Hayden, who is often credited with having giving rise to the culture of protest that was pervasive in the 1960s, will be in Ann Arbor later this week, addressing those gathered on the campus of the University of Michigan to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Port Huron Statement. The entire agenda for the three day event, which is free and open to the public, can be found here. Hayden’s keynote, entitled “The Future of Participatory Democracy,” will be delivered at 7:30 PM on Thursday, November 1, at 1324 East Hall. Those interested in attending can register online.
My intention is to eventually type up all of my notes and post them along with this audio file, but, as the 50th anniversary events begin tomorrow, I thought that I should probably just go ahead and share what I have already.
I hope that you enjoy this discussion as much as I did.
And here are my very rough notes on our discussion. If you should happen to find anything that needs editing, or requires clarification, please let me know…
SEVERAL TIMES DURING MY DISCUSSION WITH HAYDEN, I reference an earlier conversations with Alan Haber, the founder of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the organization responsible for the production and disseminated the Port Huron Statement, which, as most of you know, was primarily authored by Hayden. Video of my discussions with Haber, for those of you who are interested, can be found elsewhere on this site (Part I, Part II).
HAYDEN AND I BEGIN BY DISCUSSING THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN IN 1957. He doesn’t mention it here, but, in a previous conversation, he tells me that, by the time he reached campus, the specter of McCarthyism had lifted somewhat. (As you may recall, when I spoke with Haber, he mentioned that one of his first memories at U-M, as a freshman in 1954, was interacting with a small group of faculty, on the steps of the Union, protesting the dismissal of professors Chandler Davis, Mark Nickerson, and Clement Markert, all of whom had been fired for having refused to “name names” in front of the House Unamerican Activities Committee.) Hayden’s introduction to progressive politics, it would seem, was more gradual.
Hayden was interested in journalism at a young age, and, when he came to the University in 1957, he found a home for himself at the Michigan Daily, where he eventually became the paper’s editor. In his capacity as a student journalist, Hayden began writing about the sit-ins and lunch counter protests taking place in the south, and the activities of fellow students, like Haber, who were seeking to organize like-minded individuals on campus. Over time, as Hayden traveled across the United States, covering student movements for the Daily, he felt himself becoming more political… Hayden hitchhiked from Ann Arbor to Berkley in 1960 to report on the activities of students there, and, that same summer, he attended the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, reporting on Kennedy’s nomination. Things finally started to crystalize for him, however, in the spring of 1961, when he and some friends drove to Fayette County, Tennessee, to work with share croppers who were fighting for the right to vote. The sit-in movement, he says, hit him viscerally. And, as a result, in the summer of 1961, he joined SDS, alongside Haber.
He says that Haber, Bob Ross and Sharon Jeffrey had been encouraging him to get involved for a while. Haber, according to Hayden, wanted him to be a pamphleteer for the group, producing written materials, and traveling to other northern campuses, in hopes of starting additional SDS chapters. Hayden says that he was different from the others in the group, in that he didn’t come from a UAW, old left, labor background. He describes himself at that time as being a “non-conforming intellectual with an affinity toward Jack Kerouac and On the Road.” He was primarily interested, he tells me, in traveling, getting to know those individuals who where putting their lives on the line to fight for equality, and documenting the struggle in print. This evolution continued to the point where, in 1961, Hayden chose to take part in the Freedom Rides, putting his own life on the line to challenge the status quo of the segregated American south.
HAYDEN MENTIONS IN OUR DISCUSSION THAT HE’S WRITTEN A NEW PIECE FOR THE MICHIGAN DAILY, on the 50th anniversary of the Port Huron Statement. As luck would have it, the article just went live a few minutes ago. Here’s a clip.
…Nothing turned out as I once imagined. There was one constant: the tides of movements and counter-movements kept churning. Movements based on participatory democracy eventually gained some meaningful reforms: voting rights for southern black people and 18-year olds, the fall of two presidents, amnesty for 50,000 war resisters in Canada, the Freedom of Information Act, democratic reforms of the presidential primary systems, collective bargaining rights for public employees and farmworkers, the Roe v. Wade decision, the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species acts, a long list of reforms gained in less than a decade.
Social change did occur, precious inch by bloody inch, becoming sacred ground that had to be protected, decade after decade, from both reaction and oblivion.
Underlying all of this tumultuous history lay the rocky river of participatory democracy – “the river of my people” – which kept flowing.
Now, to paraphrase Port Huron, we are the elders of this generation looking uncomfortably to the world we leave behind as inheritance. The reforms we achieved are under constant assault from the right and stagnating with the passage of time.
We are in the process of a new beginning, signaled by the deep American discontent with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the threat of more wars to come and the immense diversion of trillions of tax dollars from our needs at home for health care and affordable education. Like the ’60s, another imperial presidency is on the rise, unleashing covert military operations in multiple countries without serious congressional oversight or civic awareness. Like the ’60s, the long war leaves greater economic inequality and environmental depletion in its wake…
Now, with just 19 days before the election, is not the time for Democrats to start talking about corporate tax cuts
It’s being that Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, in an interview yesterday with CNBC’s John Harwood, said that one of his top two priorities next year, if he and the Democrats take back control of the Senate, would be to push for a tremendous corporate tax cut. The following comes by way of The Intercept.
Speaking of himself in the third person, Schumer said that “we’ve got to get things done… The two things that come, that pop to mind — because Schumer, Clinton, and Ryan have all said they support these — are immigration and some kind of international tax reform tied to a large infrastructure program.”
American multinational corporations are now holding a staggering $2.5 trillion in profits overseas, refusing to bring the money back at the current tax rates until they get a special deal.
Revenue-starved Democratic leaders have broadly hinted they are prepared to cave, either for a “holiday” period or permanently.
In an exchange with CNBC’s John Harwood, Schumer confirmed that the latter is in fact in the works. When Harwood asked Schumer if “it would be a permanent lower rate, not a holiday rate,” Schumer replied, “Yes, you can’t do a one-shot deal.”
While the idea makes sense on one hand, as it would perhaps give us the revenue we need to fund an infrastructure bank, allowing us to finally address our nation’s crumbling highways, bridges and tunnels, putting American’s back to work in the process, it would, on the other hand, be a – to use the words of Senator Elizabeth Warren – “a giant wet kiss for the tax dodgers” who have taken advantage of loopholes for the past several decades to hide their profits oversees.
I suppose I should withhold judgment, as it might well be the case that President Clinton and the Democrats could negotiate an awesome deal for the American people to bring corporate profits back to our country, where they could fund projects that would lay the foundation for future American growth. I can’t help but think, however, that, we the Democrats win in November, especially if they win in a landslide, as some are suggesting, that there might be an opportunity to do something more ambitious than pass a corporate tax give-away. I mean, if Clinton comes to office with a mandate, and if we retake the Senate, do we really want our first order of business to be a tax cut? Again, I get the up-side, and I understand that it would be great if Clinton could get an immediate “win” that could bring conservatives to the table, but I don’t know that this is the kind of thing that you and I had in mind when we sent checks to her campaign. And that’s what concerns me. I’m afraid that talk like this will keep progressives from the polls on November 8, and we can’t afford to see that happen. So, yeah, I’m pissed at Schemer for bringing this up right now. Even if it just makes a small fraction of voters from coming out on election day, it could have a huge impact.
I should also mention that there’s some question, given the history of such initiatives in the United States, as to whether this plan of Schumer’s would even work. The following comes from former Labor Secretary Robert Reich.
A good idea? Congress’s last tax amnesty, in 2004, was a flop. Executives of large global U.S. corporations had argued that the amnesty would allow them to reinvest their overseas earnings in America. But a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that 92 percent of the repatriated cash was used for dividends, share buybacks, and executive bonuses. “Repatriations did not lead to an increase in domestic investment, employment or R.&D., even for the firms that lobbied for the tax holiday stating these intentions,” the study concluded.
Again, I’m hesitant to pass judgement at this point, as it could make sense, depending how how well we negotiate with these firms, but, on the face of it, something seems wrong about offering an enormous corporate tax break, which could come the American people tens of trillions of dollars over the next several decades, in order to repatriate $2.5 trillion that should have never left the country in the first place. What’s more important, though, I think, is the impression this gives to voters as we’re now just 19 days away from the election. I don’t mind having this debate. I just don’t want it now. I’m of the same opinion as Bernie Sanders on this. Job number one has to be to get Hillary Clinton into office. On November 9, though, we need to change focus and go at her from the left, keeping the pressure on her to serve as President for all the American people, and not just the corporate elite.
As if we needed yet another reason to vote the Republican Party out of existence, John McCain says he intends to continue blocking the appointment of a ninth Supreme Court justice if Clinton wins
John McCain came out today and said that, despite his past statements, he has no intention, if Hillary Clinton is elected president, of considering the man or woman she selects to fill the seat on the Supreme Court left vacant after the February 2016 death of Antonin Scalia, continuing what has to be one of the most shameful chapters in U.S. Senate history.
Following, by way of my Facebook friend Timothy Drouhard, are three quotes from McCain which illustrate his progressively downward evolution on the subject. [I’ve added links to the source material, for those of you who might be interested.]
7/21/05: “So, if you have got a complaint — I’m talking about the left and the far left — then win the next presidential election, and then your guy can appoint Ruth Bader Ginsburg — or your woman— your man or woman — excuse me — can appoint Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Breyer and others that are to the left. That’s — that’s the way the system works.” [source]
2/15/16: “I believe that we should wait until after the next election and let the American people pick the next president, and we should consider who the next president of the United States nominates.” [source]
10/17/16: “I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up.” [source]
So, just so we’re clear, the 11 months Senate Republicans, in violation of their constitutional duty, have neglected to consider Obama’s appointee to the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, apparently wasn’t good enough. Now McCain is promising, without even knowing who Clinton might select to fill the vacant seat, that he has no intention of ever fulfilling his obligation as outlined in Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, which states that the President “shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law.” No, he has made it clear that he, and his fellow Republicans, having learned nothing over the past eight years, will continue their unprecedented obstructionism, putting their own desperate need to retain some semblance of control over the health of our democracy.
Thankfully, as of right now, according to FiveThirtyEight.com, Democrats have a 73.8% chance of retaking the Senate. So, if all goes well, we won’t need McCain and his fellow Republicans to provide their advice and consent.
As for why McCain chose to make this announcement today, some think it’s a desperate appeal to his base, now that the Democrats are starting to invest more heavily in Arizona, where Hillary is projected to win. As of right now, McCain is polling at 53%, but the momentum seems to be with his challenger, Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick, who has climbed to 43% in the polls. So this may very well be a desperation play on the part of McCain.
[If you’d like to donate to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee you can do so here. Or, better yet, why not send John McCain a message by investing a few dollars in the campaign of Ann Kilpatrick?]