Fighting hypocrisy with Aloha

By Emil Guillermo

Sen. Mazie Hirono was probably speaking for you when she looked at Judge Amy Coney Barrett and said, “Aloha.”

But there was barely any aloha coming back from Judge Barrett during her rushed Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

Judge Barrett was masked up accordingly. She may be the person we should fear the most, after the president himself.

Judge Barrett is the handpicked nominee, who was essentially approved by the Republican senators even before she was named. What? Sure, it’s the selection handpicked by Trump himself who is on the record saying he was looking for a judge to dump the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka Obamacare, aka the reason tens of millions of people have any healthcare coverage at all.

So, there’s health care, and all that entails. Pre-existing conditions, lifetime limits, it’s all threatened with Judge Barrett’s confirmation. There’s abortion and the overturning of Roe v. Wade. There’s an election question that could rise to the Supreme Court and get a pro-Trump decision. And then there are the significant issues regarding LBGTQ rights, specifically same-sex marriage.

Are the current laws safe? Who will assure those laws are upheld? Or will they be allowed to be struck down by the woman known as a mentee of Antonin Scalia, the archconservative who voted against all the aforementioned issues.

That’s what’s at stake if Judge Barrett is approved.

From her answers, the judge evaded and dodged every question as inappropriate to answer.

Sen. Hirono came close to getting Judge Barrett to say she would take into account “real-world impacts.”

But digging deeper, Judge Barrett admitted it wouldn’t be similar to how the late Judge Ginsburg, a liberal icon, considered them.

It was as close as the conservative judge got to saying she would vote against the interests of tens of millions of American people.

Just think if the ACA goes away, millions of people would lose coverage, including 12 million others on Medicaid and more than 2 million under the age of 26 who couldn’t be on their family’s plan.

After the week of hearings, a vote is expected before Halloween. Scary? You bet.

Unless some Republicans cross over, Barrett’s approval almost assures a massive backslide caused by a majority 6-3 conservative court that could last 30-40 years.

The pain will come swiftly. The next hearing to end the ACA is set for a week after the Nov. 3 election. 

That’s why slowing down the process is important. If defeated, Trump may not get to choose such an important judge.

Wouldn’t it be wise to wait on Barrett’s appointment? Of course.

And so close to an election? The Republicans have backed that approach in the past. Remember it was Sen. Lindsey Graham who now infamously said, “I want you to use my words against me…If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be making that nomination.”

Graham is the chair of the Judiciary Committee in 2020 pushing through the Barrett express for Trump.

The scales are tipping toward hypocrisy, not aloha. Definitely not toward the people.

We may not have any other debates this cycle, which may be ok because we’ve seen what we need.

For me, the big takeaway is at the vice presidential debate. It reminded me of a song from 1963. You know it when you hear it. And when you see it: “Just one look, that’s all it took.”

If Veep debates were so important, we’d still be quoting lines from that memorable Pence/Kaine debate four years ago.


But this Veep debate was different. It showed us. And it matters.

This is a campaign season where a COVID-sick, 74-year-old, obese white male gets helicoptered to the White House, struggles up the stairs, then proudly doffs his protective face mask as he tries to catch his breath to show strength.

Once again, optics are everything—when they’re false like the president’s.

They’re even more important when the optics are true, as in the vice presidential debate.

That’s why all you need to know about the Veep debate is the one wide image of the stage.

Vice President Mike Pence, the former radio talk host turned politician, looking more like the white-haired local bank teller, protected by a plexiglass screen. Or is it a buffet macaroni and mayonnaise protected by a sneeze-plate?

And sitting across him, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, the Indian and Black woman, daughter of immigrants, behind her own plexiglass. Glass ceiling? Let’s hope not.

The two debaters protected each other from the virus, as Pence has been part of that likely super-spreader event that introduced the Supreme Court nominee. (Should she be remembered as “Amy Covid Barrett”?)

Just looking at the stage gives you the major subtext from the night. It’s not what’s said.

All that mattered is how America reacts to that image: Pence, the ultra-white conservative, and across from him Harris, the ultra-person of color, the first Asian American of Indian descent, the first Black woman.

We have never seen this before in a major political debate in America.

And it is the image that looks into the future in a way that the current presidential debates can’t. Trump and Biden, two white men in their ’70s, aren’t the future America.

No, the future of America, our culture, our society, our politics, is that debate stage of Harris and Pence. Since 1989, demographers have been talking about the U.S. becoming a majority minority in the year 2050. That’s been revised over time to 2030. We are less than ten years away.

How does the country, gripped by racial reckoning stemming from BLM and police violence, feel about that? That’s the reaction we need to pay attention to.

Is it embraced wholeheartedly as the evolution of our great country?

Or will some look at the stage and, out of fear, wonder if Trumpism is just a little more palatable to ward off the demographically inevitable? Does it inspire a new group of Sen. Tom Cottons to emerge and counter the rise of America’s coalition of color?

In 2016, the GOP had a plan ready for a full embrace of diversity. It was dealing with the demographic reality and ready to welcome the continuing surge of Hispanic voters. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida was poised to be the political era’s “Golden Boy.”

But from out of nowhere came Trump. Despite the Bush legacy and more than a dozen experienced politicos, Trump got the backing of voters who felt that demographic fear. He promised walls, if not plexiglass. They gave Trump their votes. Few political pollsters saw it coming.

It hasn’t exactly worked out so well. The swamp was drained and replaced with Trump swill. Like the virus was his “blessing from God”?

And now, here we are with the future getting second billing in the Veep debate.

I wish what would be said tonight would be important. There were no major gaffes really. Pence kept speaking overtime and tried to bully Harris. She didn’t answer a question about stacking the court, but she held her own.

She proved her qualifications to be president.

Harris and Pence were decent debaters. We saw many more clash of ideas than in the presidential debate.  Of course, Pence had an audience of one (Trump) to please and had to defend him accordingly. That’s not a winning position.

Harris was Harris. For those of us who have followed her, we know she is more fluid than not. It’s a sign of a good politician perhaps, one willing to look for solutions, rather than being intransigent. That may be how some California backers look at her mixed record as both the San Francisco DA and the state’s attorney general. Harris said what was needed to win the night. Fracking, anyone? Sure.

I didn’t expect anything in their words to make a difference in a profile of voters that shows almost everyone has made up their minds. People are already voting.

That leaves only the visceral reactions. How will America respond to the look of the stage–an event moderated by a white woman, overseeing a white-haired, white male debating a woman descendant of Blacks and South Asians?

It’s our national politics beginning to look like America.

Now as for other minor matters. Yes, it was yet another poorly moderated debate.

I’ve moderated debates at the state and local levels (gubernatorial, senate, congressional, mayoral). I kept time, asked questions, and controlled the flow. But one thing you do a lot if you’re in control is you rein in the candidates. You say, “Time. Mr. X, time. That’s all the time. Please, sir. That’s all the time. PLEASE, SIR. SHUT UP!”

OK, I didn’t say the last part, but you talk the rude candidate down until they listen to you. That’s how you know you have a decent moderator. Susan Page was too timid and deferential. I was disappointed she allowed Pence to more subtly interrupt the debate by using time for other questions to backtrack.

But what did we expect? Trump and Pence don’t play by the rules.

I do know one fly who played by his own rules. And it sure detected something it liked in Pence’s white helmet hair.

Yes, a fly was in Pence’s white hair. And it was a hit with the masses on social media. Just like that song. Just one look.

EMIL GUILLERMO is a journalist and commentator. He wrote a column for the Star-Bulletin and was on the editorial board of the Advertiser. For nearly ten years he covered Washington, DC, first as host for NPR’s “All Things Considered” and for other media outlets.

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