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A week of history and rabid partisanship sums up an extreme Washington age

Like everyone else, residents of the nation’s capital will never forget the heartbreaking horror of the images depicting the atrocities perpetrated by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s troops against defenseless Ukrainian civilians.

Yet Washington’s self-centeredness and position at the confluence of deep and opposing political forces rocking the United States meant that life went on as normal in the nation’s capital, in all its polarized and often absurd glory.

More importantly, there was the story. Jackson will be the first black woman to serve on the Supreme Court. His confirmation in the Senate on Thursday repaired a damaging omission more than 200 years old.
“We have taken another step to have our highest court reflect the diversity of America,” President Joe Biden said in an Instagram post that could become his own curiosity about history for years to come since he took a selfie of himself and Jackson after voting it out.

Yet such a normal — and constitutionally anticipated — occasion as the confirmation of a future Supreme Court Associate Justice also came with the bitter taste of partisanship that threatens to tear America apart.

Top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell, who forged secure conservative control over the High Court by blocking a Democratic candidate in an election year and rushing a Republican in similar circumstances, declined to say whether he would confirm another Biden pick if the GOP wins the chamber in November.

One of McConnell’s lieutenants, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, admitted to the possibility that hyperpartisanship would once again thwart another constitutional norm — for a president to get votes on his judicial nominees.

“I think it’s going to be tough,” Thune told CNN. “Because that’s the kind of environment we find ourselves in right now.”

This “environment” was amply demonstrated by Thune’s colleagues during Jackson’s confirmation process.

While praising her intelligence and her family — apparently to avoid being seen as disrespecting a historic racial pioneer — they falsely labeled her an enabler of child sex abusers, even though her conviction record was well into the mainstream. Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton even claimed she would have been lenient toward Nazi war criminals. Cotton, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, and Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley all clearly had their eye on future presidential campaign ads with their histrionic attacks on his criminal record.

Unity (mostly) on Russia but Trump looms large

At times like these, it is remarkable that Washington agrees on anything.

But the Senate unanimously passed two bills to punish Russia for invading Ukraine. The House voted 420-3 and 413-9 to do the same. Only three representatives, Republicans Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Matt Gaetz of Florida – staunch supporters of Donald Trump – voted against both bills.

It may seem obvious to condemn an ​​invasion that has caused some of the most heinous atrocities in Europe since World War II. Still, the ex-president’s hero-worship hangover for Putin – and why some European leaders fear a Trump second term – was on full display earlier this week when 63 House members voted against it. a boilerplate bill expressing their support for NATO.

A week of history and rabid partisanship sums up an extreme Washington age

Another aspect of Trump’s legacy that still haunts Capitol Hill is his incitement to the terrifying assault by his supporters on January 6, 2021, intended to thwart Congress’ certification of Biden’s free and fair election victory the previous November. .

In an interview with The Washington Post from his political exile in Mar-a-Lago, the ex-president said the Secret Service did not allow him to walk to the Capitol that day with his supporters. And he has repeatedly accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of the violence, even though she’s not in charge of Capitol security — or Trump supporters who stormed it.

Trump also expanded on the blatant lies about a stolen election, which heighten his threat to democracy since millions of his supporters believe them. In an extraordinary comment, which raised questions about Trump’s grip on reality, he said he was surprised he had not been reinstated as president due to “massive voter fraud”.

“How did this not happen? If you’re a bank robber or a jewelry store robber, and you go to Tiffany’s and you steal their diamonds and you get caught, you have to return the diamonds,” he said. he told the Post. .

Trump’s own attorney general, William Barr, has dismissed his false claims about a stolen election. And several courts dismissed his flurry of bogus cases on the grounds that they contained no evidence of election irregularities.

The House Select Committee investigating the insurgency and Trump’s role in it is racing against time because if Republicans win the House in November’s midterm elections, they are almost certain of the close.
Such is the altered reality of Washington in the post-Trump era that recent virtual testimony from the daughter and son-in-law of a president who staged a coup attempt didn’t make a big splash. But the news that the Justice Department is investigating the handling of White House records – including classified documents – brought to Mar-a-Lago by the Trump team has underscored the dark shadow of the legacy of the ex-president. Much like a request by New York Attorney General Letitia James that Trump be held in contempt of court for allegedly refusing to comply with an order for the release of documents in his civil investigation into his company’s business practices. business.

Covid-19 runs through the swamp

These Americans who disdain Washington often cite what they see as an overly comfortable relationship between politicians and the reporters who cover them. The idea was at the heart of Trump’s rants about the “Washington swamp”.

Such perceptions will be little improved by more than a dozen positive Covid-19 tests from one of Washington’s most intimate events – the closed-door Gridiron dinner last weekend. Among those at the big night who tested positive were Attorney General Merrick Garland and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

And in another sign that Covid is sweeping the capital, Pelosi’s office said Thursday that the Speaker of the House had also tested positive. The 82-year-old is currently asymptomatic and is fully vaccinated and boosted.

His case will reignite concern that the virus is closing in on Biden, following a surge of cases among White House staff. Pelosi was with the president as recently as Wednesday for the signing of a bill and stood at his right elbow. But the White House said Pelosi was not considered close contact with the president because their meeting was fleeting. The commander-in-chief, who had his second recall, tested negative on Wednesday evening.

Two of the strangest recent stories to shake the capital capped an often strange week.

In an extraordinary case, the FBI arrested two men in Washington for allegedly impersonating Department of Homeland Security agents for more than two years. The men reportedly gave real federal agents expensive gifts, including apartment leases, surveillance systems, a drone, a flat-screen TV and a generator. In another twist, one of the defendants allegedly offered to buy a weapon from a Secret Service agent tasked with protecting First Lady Jill Biden.

All of this only came to light after the pair were questioned as witnesses by a US postal inspector investigating an alleged assault on a mail delivery man. There were no immediate details about the motives behind this extraordinary scheme.

Another sinister distraction occurred when a fox that later tested positive for rabies struck fear into the hearts of those working on Capitol Hill. A congressman and a journalist were among those who said they were nabbed before being caught by animal control officers and euthanized.
“You are telling me that I survived three years of a pandemic to be bitten by a rabid fox,” said Politico reporter Ximena Bustillo. wrote on Twitter.

This is no laughing matter, given the deadly nature of the disease and the beatings anyone bitten must endure to avoid infection.

But at times like these, a rabid fox slaying terror in the citadel of American democracy is the kind of Washington metaphor that writes itself.

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