The GOP’s new Public Enemy #1

Who could it be?

The leaker.

“This lawless action should be investigated and punished to the fullest extent possible, the fullest extent possible,” Mitch McConnell, who engineered the GOP’s takeover of the Supreme Court, roared on the Senate floor last week (see story here).

Except it wasn’t “lawless.” What laws did it break? Supreme Court protocols, customs and traditions, and rules don’t have the force of law, or at least aren’t a criminal code.

“If a crime was committed, the Department of Justice must pursue it completely,” McConnell ranted.

That’s a very big IF. Most legal experts agree the only way to prosecute the perp is if s/he lies to investigators about it. That’s why Republicans want to drag the FBI into this. Lying to the FBI is a crime; lying to your boss isn’t.

There’s another reason for this rhetoric: Republicans want the public to believe a criminal blew the cover of conservatives’ attack on privacy rights using stolen Supreme Court seats as their chief weapon. If they can get people to believe the leak was a crime, that helps legitimize what they’re up to in the eyes of perhaps a critical number of voters in some key election races.

It’s always about politics.

Don’t be surprised if they spend millions on this. Hunting down Monica Lewinsky’s stained dress cost taxpayers over $70 million. To them that’s not waste, it’s an investment in acquiring political power they can’t win in fair and honest debate of issues that really matter to us.

For example, whether the Supreme Court is now a partisan court pursuing a political party’s agenda instead of following the law. Since its release, Alito’s 67-page draft opinion (98 pages with appendices) has been widely panned by legal scholars. Instead of level-headed judicial reasoning, it reflects the right’s most virulent talking points against abortion and privacy rights in general, many of which are factually wrong.

Republicans would rather talk about something else. For example, “Whoever has leaked this draft opinion has inflicted severe damage on the reputational integrity of the Supreme Court and should swiftly be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” Rep. John Rose (R-TN) wrote to his colleagues.

But that’s not a strong talking point, either. The damage to the court’s reputation, and growing public distrust of its decisions, didn’t come from the leak. It’s coming from the content of Alito’s draft, and from stacking the court with ideologues who lied to get confirmed, and once on the court, ignored precedent and public opinion to impose an unpopular agenda on all Americans.

And people are wondering, what’s next, intervening in elections? They already have, in Bush v. Gore, and by allowing “dark money” into election campaigns and putting gerrymandering beyond reach of the rule of law.

If you really want to hold accountable those responsible for damaging the court’s reputation, then impose term limits on them.

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